French Billboards Call Your Cellphone

In the next few weeks, cellphone users in Paris will receive some unusual phone calls. Once these consumers have opted in to this special trial, billboards will call them with additional information and opportunities via their location-enabled cellphones.

The technology was developed by the government-run French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control, known by its French initials Inria. The small transmission boxes were originally developed to provide information and assistance to disabled people.

According to Albert Asseraf, director of strategy, research and marketing at JCDecaux, the outdoor-advertising company behind the project:

"With this project, we are really starting to create the personalized digital city... We eventually will see a rich dialogue running between mobile phones and what are now uncommunicative objects."

According to Jean-Paul Edwards, the London-based head of media futures for Manning Gottlieb OMD, the most important aspect of the project is to be sure to get appropriate permission from consumers. The software used for the project allows consumers to specify where they receive messages, as well as the product types they are interested in.

Major problems could arise in an area like a train station or mall where there might be many advertising posters. "You can imagine a nightmare scenario where someone's mobile phone fills up with half a dozen advertising messages each day as they walk across Waterloo Station," said Edwards.


(Tom Cruise gets way too many messages)

This very scenario was enacted in the 2002 movie Minority Report, directed by Stephen Spielberg. In the film, John Anderton (played by Tom Cruise) is trying to unobtrusively walk through a mall, only to be constantly identified and called by wall-mounted advertisements and store windows.

"...Lexus. The road you're on, John Anderton, is the one less traveled"

"John Anderton! You could use a Guiness right about now."

"Get away, John Anderton... Forget your troubles..."
(Read more about personalized graphic ads from Minority Report)

Here's a similar story about billboards in Belgium sending SMS messages to passers-by. Read more about cellphone calls from billboards at this article from the International Herald.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/8/2006)

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