A tech company that uses facial analytics to choose the adverts it displays upon its digital billboards – such as selling shorts to young men in a heatwave – is looking to dominate the ‘out of home’ advertising industry.
Offer Moments has changed its name to Bidooh and allows advertisers to publish an ad on specific digital billboards within minutes and accurately measure who has viewed each message.
CEO Abdul Alim expects the firm to become the gold standard in offline advertising in the coming years as it is the first to incorporate a decentralised blockchain into its offering.
“Advertisers are probably wasting 70-80 per cent of their budgets on advertising which is not relevant to the people seeing the ads,” he told BusinessCloud.
“Our tech picks up your demographic profile, such as your age and gender, and curates the advert in real-time to match it. It allows advertisers to choose what they want to market to different demographics.
“For example, if a male aged 16-25 walks past the billboard and the temperature is more than 16 degrees, the billboard may automatically advertise a pair of male shorts at a nearby shop to them.
“This type of targeting exists in the online world, but it’s very rare to find it in the offline world.”
Alim, who co-founded the business with friend and blockchain developer Shahzad Mughal, says that if several people are walking towards, say, the firm’s trial billboard outside the Odeon cinema in Manchester’s Great Northern complex, the tech will focus its advert on the most prevalent demographic in the group.
Other trial locations include a Rochdale shopping centre, a Nottingham gym and a petrol station in Oldham. Alim says they have learned that shopping centres and entertainment complexes are the most lucrative locations – and despite investing heavily into their self-built technology, Bidooh is already revenue-generating.
The decision to pivot the business and use blockchain to ensure full transparency is intended to both allay ‘Big Brother’ fears and allow advertisers full control over their campaigns. They can see in real-time how many and what type of people they are reaching, as well as how long they engage with the ad for. In fact, they only pay for the amount of time that their advert is displayed to a potential customer.
“The blockchain allows us to be transparent with the information we’re collecting, the billing and the viewership,” says Alim. “We’re still writing information into our primary database in the Amazon cloud, but blockchain adds a second layer of auditing as it is a publicly available ledger which is immutable and can be checked at any point by any of our clients.
“We do get scrutinised a lot, and get a lot of mild attacks, because of the nature of our platform – and this allows people to see that we’re totally open and transparent with what we’re doing.”
The decentralised nature of the platform means that anyone can quickly upload an advert via the Bidooh web or mobile app and deploy it to a specific screen after a quickfire approval process which takes place in mere minutes.
“We’ve designed it in similar fashion to Airbnb, so a shopkeeper or barber can also buy a screen, put it in their store, add it to our network and sell advertising upon it.
“By decentralising the ownership, there are huge opportunities for us to expand rapidly.”
Alim says the way the ‘out of home’ digital advertising industry currently works is convoluted. He hopes that the big players such as JCDecaux and Clear Channel will one day look to his platform.
“There’s frustration around the industry because everyone’s talking about blockchain but no one knows how to implement it,” he said. “We are now the ones implementing it.
“Every industry will have a blockchain – or subset of blockchain – which they will adhere to. We’re trying to build a blockchain implementation which will be the definitive resource for all advertising-related platforms.
“With hindsight we should have started out down the blockchain route when we started two years ago. It would have been less work for us and we would have been able to deploy our systems faster.
“Being first in any marketplace is crucial.”
Bidooh is installing 2,000 screens across Europe from this month, with the Czech Republic a major early partner and other Eastern European countries set to follow suit. In all, Alim and his team are talking to 19 countries.
Its ambitious plans are to deploy 5,000 screens in the next 12 months and 50,000 within three years – which, if achieved, Alim believes could put its annual revenues at £50m-plus judging by the trials to date.
It has also launched an ICO to allow investors to pre-buy advertising space. The firm’s lead investor is long-term Manchester United non-exec director Michael Edelson, who has overseen 20 stock market flotations, while Howard Simms, CEO of Apadmi Ventures, is also an investor.
The idea is that while it would cost a business a penny for every ten seconds of advertising if paying in traditional fiat currencies, using the Bidooh tokens would make it 28 times cheaper and negate the need to pay “extortionate” transfer fees.
Bidooh won the Duke of York’s [email protected] 6.0 competition, which Alim says was the “best thing that has ever happened to us”. Start-ups from a broad range of technology sectors are now being encouraged to apply for the 10th [email protected] You can do so here.
“A couple of months ago they took us to Bahrain to meet with Salman, the Crown Prince of Bahrain,” said Alim. “The network it gives you access to is immense and meeting the Queen gives you massive kudos around the world.”