Interactive street adverts offer free Wi-Fi, apps

Billboards and advertising posters on streets, in phone booths and at railway stations could soon 'talk' to users, with interactive ads using wireless technology to offer downloads to passers-by.

A recent interactive ad for mobile phone maker Nokia in London phone boxes urged passers-by to download an app on the spot, according to a report today in the Wall Street Journal.

Search giant Google and mobile operator Orange are among other companies looking at pilot schemes that allow people to interact with adverts at bus stops and train stations, in telephone boxes and at airports.

"You have to wait here. You don't have to be bored," ran a Google poster campaign at bus stops in the Boston area that allowed waiting passengers to download Google's mobile app via a free Wi-Fi connection.

From 1st March, Orange is set to offer punters the chance to download its ON wireless app for Android from wireless-equipped adverts at 300 sites in London and New York.

The bus-stop ads also offer passengers free Wi-Fi internet access.

"It's an old-school media that has been around for hundreds of years but we've dressed it up and made it fresh," said Zohar Levkovitz, chief executive and co-founder of Amobee, the Californian start-up behind the technology.

Campaigns have so far been used to distribute free wireless applications or ring tones for smart phones - but could eventually be used to sell games and other digital goods or services.

Big companies are said to be interested in the interactive ads because they allow them to more accurately track their advertising spend. Under deals currently being trialled, advertisers pay only when customers interact with the ad, with fees ranging between $1 and $3 depending on the advert's location.

During the 10 weeks that the Nokia campaign ran, 1.5 million people interacted with the poster and tens of millions of people saw it, according to Craig Hepburn, the company's global director of digital.

"We've been really impressed with the kind of performance and the engagement," Hepburn told the Wall Street Journal.