Sometimes when you hear about the cutting edge of media technology you say "wow that's awesome!" Other times -- or sometimes at the same time -- you want to say "wow that's creepy!"
Today I hosted a panel discussion at the MediaPost Digital Out-of-Home Forum where I found myself saying both. One of the most interesting new areas of development in the DO arena is the ongoing merger with social media, which came up during several panel discussions, including the one I moderated ("Is Digital Out of Home Getting Too Creepy?"). Multiple speakers seemed to agree that mobile devices are the key to the convergence of DO and social media.
Basically, my understanding is: by checking into social networks with mobile devices equipped with Bluetooth, WiFi, or some other variant of near-field communication technology, consumers technically make it feasible to fuse online and place-based advertising. If you were able to exploit interactivity, behavioral targeting, and racial recognition, this gets pretty amazing, but potentially creepy (in keeping with the title of the panel).
Here's a hypothetical situation I imagined, which is probably not actionable now but technically feasible: suppose that a consumer opted in to allow high-intensity online behavioral marketing, and was also willing to allow their social media profile photos to serve as data for facial recognition by digital out-of-home displays. Finally, suppose that they allowed these two functions to share data with each other.
In this scenario, behavioral tracking software notes that someone is searching for local eateries. Merging this data with live information from Foursquare, a local advertiser could deliver an ad saying, for example, "Looking for pizza? Your Foursquare friend Mike is at Sal's Pizzeria at 180 Main Street. If you check in there in the next two hours you can get $5 off a large pizza." Then, digital signage at the restaurant could encourage you to check in to Foursquare again, or simply identify you using facial recognition technology, and deliver ads for a local movie theater with a movie recommendation based on your earlier online behavior -- and the movies you've seen with Mike in the past. When the movie ends, digital signage in the lobby could identify you, address you buy your first name, and say "someone you know is hanging out at a bar within a quarter-mile of this theater! Check into Foursquare to find out who!"
Obviously I'm not a digital marketer, so I can't even imagine the full implications of social media-DO convergence. I'm willing to bet even more amazing things are possible -- presuming full opt-in, a crucial point -- once really creative marketers started mulling the options. I'd be really interested to hear "blue sky" musings from real practitioners.