Monday, December 23, 2002


High-tech billboards tune in to drivers' tastes / Roadside signs coming to Bay Area listen to car radios, then adjust pitch

The California system uses a "consumer monitoring system" developed by Mobiltrak of Chandler, Ariz., to pick up radio waves "leaked" from the antennas of up to 90 percent of all cars passing by and pinpoint the stations being played.

Each station has a typical listener profile derived from detailed consumer surveys. The system will assess the most popular radio station during a given hour and target the ads to those drivers.

Neill envisions a system of Mobiltrak-equipped billboards along, say, a six- mile stretch of freeway. The first billboard's receiver would collect data on a block of cars and send it to the billboards farther on, which would then switch to the appropriate ads.

Hollywood already is installing similar technology in movie theater ads -- electronic "posters" that interact with customers to show moving digital images. Walk by an electronic poster of Jennifer Lopez, and she might wink at you.

"Minority Report" producer Bonnie Curtis, in a recent New York Times article about the new medium, said she could envision interactive posters that talk to moviegoers, perhaps in Spielberg's voice.

In Spielberg's "Minority Report," Tom Cruise's character makes his way through city streets as billboard advertisements scan his retina and then personalize ads for products.

"When I hear him say, 'Hey, Bonnie, I like that blouse. Why haven't you come to see my movie yet?' " Curtis told the Times, "then I'd say we are getting very close."

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