And you need a new filter, too

I realize that Britain is one big goldfish bowl these days — everywhere you go, you’re being watched — but this trick seems a little fishier than average:

An advertising campaign in the UK began using automated number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to identify passing vehicles and create personalized advertisements. The motor oil giant Castrol UK Limited [has] activated a set of five electronic billboards in London that flash an image of the exact type of Castrol-brand motor oil appropriate for the nearest vehicle.

“The right oil for your car is: Castrol Magnatec 5W-30 A1,” the advertisement reads for eight seconds as a Jaguar with the license plate 1DFL drives past.

Castrol’s trip to the Dark Side was made possible by two large, impersonal organizations:

The roadside digital billboards, seventeen feet wide and eight feet high, are owned by Clear Channel Outdoor. Castrol’s campaign added the license scanning technology which ties into the official UK Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) database. The agency provides private registration information to just about any company willing to pay the desired fee.

One other use of the DVLA database by Castrol: if you key your number plate at their Web site you’ll get the same sort of oil recommendation.

Says Stephen Green:

I can’t be the only one creeped out by this. It was cute/creepy in Minority Report when the advertisements tailored themselves to passersby, based on retinal scans. But in real life? Not so cute.

I suspect if they set up something like that over here — and you have to figure that they eventually will — the last thing the camera records some night will be a large blunt object, or maybe a small high-velocity object, aimed at its lens.

(Seen at The Truth About Cars.)

1 comment

  1. fillyjonk »

    23 September 2009 · 7:13 am

    I can imagine far more insidious uses of “personalized” advertising than specifying the oil a car needs. And I expect, advertising being what it is, they will show up sooner or later.

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