Most technology is looking inwards, as computers become faster and more powerful, and reality more virtual. Most digital marketers will know about the advances we expect to see in computing. However, we’re interested in the macro – what technologies are going to dominate the landscape, our city centres and the out-of-home environment? I’ve explored five technology trends that will dramatically affect our everyday lives, and suggested ways in which they will change the face of out-of-home marketing and advertising forever.

Self-aware advertising

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are driving computers to become smarter and act more akin to humans. But how will AI affect out-of-home advertising?

Smart advertising currently needs smart planners. They analyse the data and find the ideal location at the best possible time to run your ad. Now imagine a machine learning advertising algorithm that works in real time, constantly evolving and adapting to live events. For example, your football team wins and so immediately the Nike ads on your route home congratulate your success. Perhaps they will go a step further and pick up on the fact that your team lost but still progressed through the cup competition on away goals. This kind of intelligent, human-like thinking is already here, with companies such as Linkett building platforms for advertisers that allow campaigns to adapt in real time.

IoT Goes Out-of-Home

The internet is quickly building a profile of us all to make marketing more accurate, and consumers are aware of this paradigm shift, and indeed embracing the new data-driven age. The next stage is for digital-out-of-home to become more connected and intelligent.

The more we permit marketers to mine our data, the better payoff for both customers and advertisers. Digital billboards are already becoming more interactive and cross-platform – i.e. scanning a QR code can unlock hidden content on your phone. The next step will involve connected adverts that incorporates the kind of targeted advertising you’re used to seeing on your computer screen, appearing on point-of-sale payment devices, in-store and on NFC-enabled billboards. Companies like BlueBroadcaster are already providing platforms for brands and business owners to engage with their customers Minority Report-style, using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies to provide proximity marketing that you’ve opted into.

Personalised AR

Augmented reality devices like the Hololense provide advertisers with an opportunity to personalise real-world advertising so that it adapts to the user. Imagine a billboard the changes depending on who is viewing it. For example, using a combination of geo-targeting and data algorithms, if a viewer is Scottish a billboard could switch out an advert for Coke with one for Irn-Bru. By the time we’re all wearing augmented reality glasses or implants, traditional billboards may eventually be replaced completely with blank spaces, anchor points in the real world for these large-format AR adverts.

Deviceless AR

Most people think of AR as an interface that overlays information from a personal device on top of the real world. Our eyes experience a persistence of vision effect when exposed to light, and we are is exploiting this chemistry to show advertising images that appear like magic from the sides of skyscrapers. Digital cameras also experience the persistence of vision effect, so you can capture the image using your smartphone.

This technology provides content creators more control at source, rather than relying on devices, where the user can opt out of particular types of advertising. They are also completely different to anything we’ve seen before, so really capture the attention of passers-by and encourage them to photograph and share the images.


The next leap in communications is Li-Fi, which will provide connectivity with unimaginable speeds and stability. Li-Fi sends coded information directly via light rather than radio waves, and it can be a lot faster and further reaching than Wi-Fi. Digital out-of-home will appear in places that were previously difficult to get to, and the content they display will be able to operate at a much higher bandwidth.

It’s not in our immediate pipeline, but I imagine a not-to-distant future where we could use Li-Fi to potentially code messages into our hyperscale adverts so viewers will be able to interact with them using their handheld devices, either to complete an activity, get a special offer or unlock hidden content.

The future of advertising is most certainly personal, but there will always be a requirement for brands to show their presence in the environment, and eye-catching technologies will have to become even more innovative if they are to continue to engage consumers.

I, for one, am excited to be a part of this future.


By Stephen Allen, media director at Lightvert

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