From Mobile Phones to Minority Report: The Future of Advertising Begins Now

Technology is changing the way that consumers shop. It is also changing the way that brands and retailers advertise the products and services that they have for sale.

In a post that I wrote earlier this month, I pointed out how mobile phones are becoming a bigger factor as more consumers reach for their smartphones to research and purchase products.

Retailers have taken note and are providing opportunities for tech savvy customers to find additional information about products and services, find available discounts, and make their shopping experience more enjoyable.

For example, IBM Research is testing augmented reality technology in its IBM mobile app.

According to an article on, “The app acts like a personal shopper, using augmented reality technology to provide shoppers with more personalized product information as they’re browsing through store shelves.”

However, many shoppers won’t want to take the time to pull their mobile phones out when they shop.

This is where digital signage can help.

The First Step to Minority Report Advertising

If you watched the 2002 movie “Minority Report” that starred Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell, you probably remember the scene in the movie where Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is walking down a hallway in a subway station and the advertising is being targeted specifically to him as a result of retinal scanners identifying which people are in the area.

To some people, the idea of this type of ad targeting is creepy. To others, it’s exciting.

In this post, I’m going to ignore the privacy concerns and other issues related to this type of targeting, because we’re not quite there, yet.

What is currently being experimented with is facial recognition technology that helps identify basic demographics (gender, approximate age, body type, etc.) of the consumers who are looking at a digital sign. With this data, the digital signs are able to deliver ads that are relevant to the consumer. For example, a digital sign in the men’s department of a clothing store might deliver an ad for Levi’s jeans to men, while women might get ads for the dresses on the other side of the store or maybe even ads with a gift-giving theme.

Just think about it, many stores are already using video displays to advertise the products that they sell. Why not leverage them to deliver more relevant content that can increase sales. And, as an added bonus, retailers can also track basic ad performance and make changes to the content displayed. For more information, check out the Immersive Labs website. They are one of the companies that is taking the lead in this type of technology.

Final Thoughts

Mobile phones are going to play a huge factor in connecting retailers and brands to their customers and potential customers.

However, for consumers who don’t feel the need to reach for their mobile phones while shopping, other technologies are out there to help get their attention when they are in a store’s “brick-and-mortar” location or any other place in the terrestrial world.

By using digital signage similar to what was featured in the movie “Minority Report,” retailers and brands can deliver relevant ads to consumers that can help increase sales of the products and services that they are selling.

The future of advertising begins now. And, to me, that’s exciting.

Photo credit: eyeliam on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

  • Emily Binder

    Most people want things personalized, from monograms to being greeted upon hotel arrival to . There were concerns about smartphones enabling tracking of our whereabouts. Now we voluntarily check in on Foursquare from mobile devices. Google targets ads based on our browsing and search history. Facebook targets based on our demographics and interests. The digital signage advertising discussed here is simply hardlinking (embedding to the physical world) what’s already happening online.
    I’d rather see ads that are more relevant to me. I wouldn’t have to listen to or see annoying ads for Cricket Wireless or debt reduction or diet pills. I might even like one-way advertising better. In fact, people gravitate toward social media because it’s a two-way street and is a conversation with a brand instead of an interruptive message. Consumers are more demanding for individual attention, that is clear. Irrelevant ads should be obsolete by now.

    • Chad Thiele


      I agree with you about the fact that this type of digital signage advertising is doing the same thing in the physical world as is happening online. I also welcome this type of technology.

      However, I would caution that there are a lot people out there who disagree with us. Keep in mind that while 41% of US adults get location-based information, only 10% use geo-social services like Foursquare. (Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project.)

      Brands that get into this type of advertising that I talked about in the post need to consider who they are targeting and where the digital signs are placed.

      For example, when I lived in Atlanta, I noticed a lot of people using location-based services and a lot of people were excited about social media and the next cool thing in technology. Since moving back to a small to medium-size city in Central Wisconsin, I have noticed that more of the people who I have talked to are reluctant to use the next big thing in technology. This could be due to the fact that when I was in Atlanta, I was mostly in contact with marketers involved with the AMA or AiMA. Now that I am back in Wisconsin, I am outside that bubble and have talked to more everyday folks. In Central Wisconsin, most people use Facebook, but even Twitter seems to have a hard time getting a lot of users in this area. And, many people don’t see the point of using Foursquare and/or have mentioned privacy concerns.

      The point I want to make is that brands risk making consumers unhappy if they jump headfirst into any technology where there is a “perceived” privacy issue. Since the current digital signage technology doesn’t track individual data, education might be needed to let consumers know this, so that it doesn’t offend them.

      In the future, as more consumers become comfortable with technology, as you suggest, people will like the relevance that targeting brings. However, there will always be people who don’t like it, as is suggested by people who are against ad targeting online. This brings up the issue of opt-in or opt-out of ad targeting. There is a trade off, and as I mentioned, I am all for this type of targeting, but not everyone is. Therefore, as marketers, we need to proceed with caution. (This is a great topic for a future post.)

      Thanks for the comment.


      Chad Thiele