UK’s Bidooh strikes deal for ‘Minority Report’ advertising
Shoppers in eastern Europe to be targeted with tailored promotions
Originally published by the Financial Times on October 22, 2018
by Andy Bounds
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Bidooh, a UK digital billboard advertising platform, has struck a deal to use up to 3,000 screens across central and eastern Europe in a sign that its Minority Report-style technology is taking off.
Company founder Abdul Alim was inspired by the 2002 sci-fi movie where a talking screen changes to address Tom Cruise as he walks past.
The business effectively transplants elements of online ad targeting used by Facebook and Google to billboards, known as the “out of home (OOH)” market.
Bidooh equips existing screens with a box and camera. The camera uses facial recognition software to detect who passes it. The box allows it to be controlled by users of the platform to tailor ads accordingly. There is a 60-second delay to upload it.
A test screen in a Rochdale shopping centre found there were more men than women there on weekday mornings, for example, and adverts could be tailored for them.
Advertisers pay by the second using normal currency or a digital currency created by Bidooh, called DOOH Token, which is based on Ethereum blockchain technology.
The Manchester-based company has 16 test screens in the UK and already operates 27 screens in Bosnia and Herzegovina with Darko Ban — Bidooh CZ, a partner operator in the Czech Republic.
Bidooh provides the technology platform and customers and its partners the screens and other physical infrastructure. The UK group then shares revenue with billboard owners, reducing cost and the need to compete head on with big companies such as Clear Channel and JCDecaux. Partners can accept payments in digital or standard currencies.
More than 500 advertisers have signed up and used the platform since the first site went live in November 2017.
The new deals with Darko Ban and a Romanian company will install 300 screens initially, rising to 3,000 over three years, in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Romania.
Mr Alim said it was hitherto impossible to measure accurately the impact of the £34.8bn spent on outdoor advertising globally each year, with a footfall count typically used.
It would optimise the use of screens — currently at an average of 60 per cent capacity — by opening them up to small companies. They can use templates on the website to create adverts within minutes. “You don’t need an agency. We cut out the middleman,” said Mr Alim.
“It is cheap, accessible from anywhere and you can use it in real time,” he added.
The company has sold more than $5m of DOOH tokens in an initial coin offering, which closes on October 31. The platform charges 1.4 US cents, or 1 Token, for a 10 second advert on Bidooh screens, or $28 for 2,000 such slots. At the ICO price, $1 buys 2,000 Tokens, a big discount.
Mr Alim stressed that each advert had to be approved by an employee before going live. He also said only generic data on people was collected and it was agglomerated.
Bidooh is backed by wealthy individuals including chairman Michael Edelson, the angel investor and Manchester United director. He said it should reach monthly break-even within nine months.