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A new era for advertising: How network cameras are engaging the consumer

The advertising and retail landscape is undergoing a huge transformation. While it is clear a well-executed advertising campaign still has the power to generate awareness, build a brand and reach an organisation’s target market, a shift in its execution is becoming apparent.

Marketing and advertising can no longer exclusively rely on broadcasting a message to an audience through television, print or billboard placements. Customers are coming to expect a more intelligent interaction, and brands have responded by placing an increased focus on engaging audiences, encouraging emotional responses and deeper connections with a brand or product.

From a consumer perspective, the change is a welcome one, with 73 per cent having expressed a dislike of obtrusive online pop-up ads. It has also been estimated that approximately 21 per cent of UK adults currently use ad blockers, further highlighting a need for the industry to take a new approach. 

As companies seek support in finding the right channels and communication platforms, there are a number of intelligent technologies helping to pioneer the move towards engaging advertising, including the network camera.

Women’s Aid Day 2015 – encouraging an emotional response

In 2015, a campaign aiming to raise awareness for Women’s Aid took place in London and Manchester. The campaign encouraged members of the public to confront signs of domestic violence and not turn a blind eye by showing a woman’s face that appeared to have been abused on a large digital screen. As members of the public walked past and looked at the screen, the face began to heal. The more people who glanced at the screen, the faster her injuries healed. Once the woman was completely clear of bruises, she would mouth the words “thank you” to passers-by.

The campaign made unique use of audience detection technology, allowing the interactive board to recognise when people were actively paying attention to the image of the bruised woman. Those who looked at the billboards received instant feedback from a live video feed displayed at the bottom of the digital advertisement as a visual ticker-tape, registering an increasing number of viewers. The campaign had an estimated global reach of 326 million, but perhaps more impressively, there was an increase in charitable donations of 24.6 per cent in locations where the advertisements were displayed.

As the industry begins to recognise that short, high-impact campaigns are a rewarding form of digital advertising, we expect to witness a shift towards this type of intelligent marketing.

Renault – providing highly targeted and relevant advertising

Three digital screens at Holland Park roundabout in London receive an impressive 4,657,000 impacts per fortnight. The screens utilise four network cameras to track certain cars travelling around the roundabout. Once a vehicle stops at a set of traffic lights, the cameras monitor the stationary traffic in each lane to detect number plates, matching these with a vehicle specification database to retrieve the make, model and vehicle colour.

Once this process is complete, Vehicle Recognition Technology (VRT) triggers an advert for a relevant Renault car in real-time, identifying the model of car being targeted. For example, the digital screen may read, “Hey, Citroen driver, check out this new Renault”. Utilising the latest in technology innovation, such as network cameras and VRT, this type of campaign was more than just a car advertisement – the aim was to speak to prospective car buyers in a fun and friendly manner, but also engage them outside of the home on the roadside, making adverts more interactive than ever before.

In-store treatment – utilising technology to reward loyal shoppers

Network cameras and recognition technology are already being used in the outdoor advertisement sector, enabling advertisers to count how many people have viewed their advertising, even splitting the information by gender and age. The next stage is to bring this technology into the retail environment to see shoppers individually recognised in customer loyalty schemes. Many well-known retailers are beginning to implement this, showing an interest in rewarding their loyal shoppers when they walk through the door, allowing a sales assistant to be alerted and offer truly personalised shopping experiences.

Making shopping an easier and more friendly experience for customers is of key importance to the retail industry going forward. Traditionally, CCTV and surveillance technology has been installed in retail environments for purely surveillance and security purposes. But what if network cameras could do more, such as identify when shelves are empty and alert staff that they need to be restocked? This is already being done in many stores across the UK. Furthermore, they can also identify when a queue is too long, so that more cash registers are opened to accommodate the crowd.

In other words, utilising network camera technology beyond traditional surveillance purposes is allowing businesses to place staff where they are most needed, and to optimise staff shifts in order to meet customer demands. Long queues, empty shelves and blocked aisles will be a thing of the past in the retail environment of tomorrow.

Marketing analysis – effectively reaching target markets

Improving the customer experience is crucial for retailers, as is effectively evaluating in-store marketing and promotions. An increasing number of stores are using people counting software on network cameras to measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. This is becoming of growing importance as a successful campaign can increase the number of customers, the average basket size and/or the number of sold promotional items. In the same way that it is easy to evaluate the effectiveness of a display window or in-store, the impact of a store-redesign can be determined, indicating what merchandise attracts walk-by traffic and results in a purchase.

It is becoming abundantly clear that advertising departments must find a new approach to engage customers. Technology is helping to drive this, offering the opportunity to speak to audiences in new ways. This shift will not only increase sales and awareness, but also encourage increased interaction with customers, creating brand loyalty in the process.

Engaging with the customer is becoming ever-more difficult as traditional advertisements that don’t offer interaction increasingly turn users away from products. Technology, it seems, will be key to engaging audiences once again.

Andy Martin, Business Development Manager at Axis Communications

Image source: Shutterstock/Andres Garcia Martin