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Saturday, Jan 31, 2009

Watch an advertisement on a video screen in a mall, health club or grocery store and there’s a slim – but growing – chance the ad is watching you too.

Small cameras can now be embedded in the screen or hidden around it, tracking who looks at the screen and for how long. The makers of the tracking systems say the software can determine the viewer’s gender, approximate age range and, in some cases, ethnicity – and can change the ads accordingly.

That could mean razor ads for men, cosmetics ads for women and video-game ads for teens.

And even if the ads don’t shift based on which people are watching, the technology’s ability to determine the viewers’ demographics is golden for advertisers who want to know how effectively they’re reaching their target audience.

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While the technology remains in limited use for now, advertising industry analysts say it is finally beginning to live up to its promise. The manufacturers say their systems can accurately determine gender 85 to 90 percent of the time, while accuracy for the other measures continues to be refined.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

The concept is reminiscent of the science-fiction movie “Minority Report,” in which Tom Cruise’s character enters a mall and finds that retinal scanners identify him and prompt personalized ads that greet him by name.

But this technology doesn’t go nearly that far. It doesn’t identify people individually – it simply categorizes them by outward appearances.

So a video screen might show a motorcycle ad for a group of men, but switch to a minivan ad when women and children join them, said Vicki Rabenou, the chief measurement officer of Tampa, Fla.-based TruMedia Technologies Inc., one of the leaders in developing the technology.

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This article was posted: Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 5:31 am





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