IHT on location-based marketing

Yesterday in the IHT, there was an interesting article about mobile phone/billboard interactions.

JCDecaux, the outdoor-advertising company behind the project, is that consumers consent to receive alerts about digital advertising as they move through the city. "We are switching from a one-time active response to the user's blanket acceptance of many digital messages," he said. "We will, of course, need to be careful in making certain that users get only advertisements that interest them." When participating users are near an active advertisement - it could be part of a billboard or a bus shelter poster - their phones will automatically receive a notice that a digital file can be downloaded. The information could range from a ring tone or short video to a discount voucher. "With this project, we are really starting to create the personalized digital city," Asseraf said. "We eventually will see a rich dialogue running between mobile phones and what are now uncommunicative objects." (...) A cautious and permission-based approach is vital when using technologies that touch consumers so directly,

The permission feature is indeed a crux issue.

What's behind a "personalized digital city"? What are the consequences? having people immersed in different levels of information? what about spam? What are the assumptions? that we already have a different perception of space and place, territoriality and the cues that make us think it's different? or is it just a way to better reach potential customers?

They seem to care about that:

The potential shortcomings would be apparent in any large public space that might have many digitally enabled posters close to one another. "You can imagine a nightmare scenario where someone's mobile phone fills up with half a dozen advertising messages each day as they walk across Waterloo Station," Edwards said. "The most powerful way to use this technology will be offering people something of value that they really want."

The article also addresses two applications:

they also were developing airport signs, called UbiBoards, that will show information in the language spoken by a majority of the people nearby. "If mobile phones near a sign say that the majority of people are Chinese, the sign will show information in Chinese," Banâtre said, adding that such a system would require registrations much like the ad system. "Those who do not speak Chinese will receive the same information in their phone via SMS message in their own language." Another application, called UbiQ, is being developed to allow people in a location like a bank, cinema or fast- food restaurant to give information by cellphone about what they want before getting to the front of the line. "Think about it and you realize how much time is spent giving the same start-up information for a transaction," Banâtre said, citing the time it takes for a teller to enter banking details. "The intention with UbiQ is to speed up the exchange of information through mobile phones."

Why do I blog this? after few years of emergence in the LBS world, location-based marketing seems to be one of the most developed application (after navigation tools) but there is still no consensus about best practices as well as a positive user experience: the added value is often balanced by the risk of information overload (physical spam). This does not mean that location-based marketing is not useful but it's tough to invent something really valuable.