Will Amscreen herald an outdoor 'revolution'?

The company claims to provide the most accountable outdoor measurement system ever. Alasdair Reid reports.

The out-of-home digital advertising company Amscreen believes that its new audience measurement system, developed in partnership with the image analysis company Quividi, will revolutionise the outdoor media industry.

Amscreen’s network of 19-inch LCD screens (there are 6,000 of them, largely in a point-of-sale environment in service stations, but also in other retail, leisure and healthcare locations) will be fitted with cameras that can detect when someone’s in the vicinity – and capture an image of them. The Quividi software can then analyse this image to determine gender (pretty accurately) and (a rough estimate of) age.

Amscreen will then factor in a conversion figure (it reckons that 94 per cent of people view at least some content when in range of a screen) to produce what it claims will be the most accountable outdoor measurement system ever.

Amscreen’s chief executive, Simon Sugar, says, in providing demographic audience data on an hour-by-hour basis, the company is able to offer advertisers every opportunity to buy inventory using real-time planning techniques – and that’s something that the rest of the outdoor media industry, even with its new Route research, can’t really do.

Clearly, this was said with no small amount of feeling – because Amscreen has, in the past, felt marginalised and unfairly treated by the advertising industry. The sector is traditionally dominated by a handful of established media owners that enjoy a symbiotic relationship with an equally small number of specialist buying companies. If you’re not part of this club, your revenue prospects tend to be rather limited.

And, of course, there will be those willing to point out that Amscreen’s initiative is not quite as groundbreaking as is perhaps being claimed. Outdoor media owners have used similar video-camera and image analysis systems in the past – albeit in relatively small-scale pieces of ad hoc audience research.

So, unless it can win the initial battle for hearts and minds, the company may continue to face something of an uphill struggle. Is the industry ready to buy into this particular revolution?


YES Carolyn Nugent, head of digital, Kinetic

"It’s revolutionary not because the technology hasn’t been used before but because of the [study’s] sheer scale and size, and because it’s a permanent, rather than temporary, installation. It’s a positive initiative."

MAYBE Mike Baker, chief executive, Outdoor Media Centre

"Yes, new face-tracking cameras generate a record of where shoppers look and how long they view ad screens. They’re also pretty decent at intuiting gender, age and mood. But Route data for other outdoor sites is visibility-adjusted too."

YES Paul Sambrook, business development and marketing director, Rapport

"Facial-tracking technology in the out-of-home medium isn’t new – but the scale of Amscreen’s offering is. The potential to link point-of-sale data to specific audience profiles via facial tracking is an exciting data-mining opportunity."

NO Bobby Din, partner, Goodstuff Communications

"It will appeal most to clients with a portfolio of brands – so it’s difficult to see short-term payback on this significant investment, as most ambient spend is planned at a brand, not advertiser, level."

Read more comment here as Amscreen captures our attention

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