Pinging in Your Pocket

Is that an ad in your pants, or are you just happy to see me? Ready or not, outdoor advertising is about to reach into your pocket. Clear Channel Outdoor is partnering with mobile content distributor Qwikker to plant Bluetooth transmitters in select airport and mall billboards and bus-stop signage. When users opt-in to accept promotional material, the signs can push ringtones, tunes, movie trailers, coupons and even mobile Web portals to a handset on the spot and without having to go through the wireless phone service. A movie poster can deliver a trailer, or a telecom ad can push content that shows off your phone’s untapped capabilities.

“Our goal is to pull the industry into the interactive market,” says Michael Hudes, global director of digital media for Clear Channel Outdoor. CCO has been executing Bluetooth campaigns overseas for years, but will roll out an initial 500 locations in the United States by early 2008.

“You can think of this as Outdoor 2.0,” Hudes says. Well, 2.0 beta. Signage will need to instruct mobilistas to turn on their Bluetooth feature and make themselves “discoverable” to outbound invitations from the interactive signage. Handsets get an invitation from the sign to initiate a transfer that the user can accept or reject. The technique is faster for delivering rich media than over-air content distribution, and it circumvents any data channel charges to the consumer. The individual transmitters are themselves tied back to a wireless network, so content can be updated at the local level in real time.

Ultimately, users should be able to set privacy levels that determine whether and how nearby outdoor advertising can reach out and ping you. Otherwise, next year we may be covering the coming blight of “Bluetooth spam.”

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