Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Customized Billboards and RIFD

I heard about this on NPR a few days ago and decided to look it up. Turns out that Mini Cooper owners can now sign up to have the billboards lining their daily commutes customized by personal RIFD "keyfobs". The pilot advertising campaign is now running in four cities (San Fran, New York, Chicago and Miami), with plans to expand pending the program's success. I found this explanation on http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/01/11/2021244&from=rss:

"When that MINI owner drives by the billboard, a targeted message appears. Each owner tells MINI what to show when they drive by, such as 'Jim, you are one sexy beast.' If the pilot program is successful, MINI plans to put up more billboards in more cities and allow every owner to participate. MINI swears that no personal information in contained in the keyfobs and that all communication between the MINI and the owner is subject to their privacy policy and thus the program is completely safe. But how well will they keep their billboard logs away from the prying eyes of law enforcement or private detectives? And what are they doing to prevent 'hackers' from changing the personal messages to insults, such as 'Jim, nice to see you finally emerge from your mother's basement'?""

Interestingly, a contributer to the slashdot blog posted a comment about how it would be fun to put up fake terror warnings.
As much as I disagree about the "fun factor" of such a prank, I have to admit that he brings up a good point: there are a million ways these billboards could be misused.

Then again, giving the average consumer the means of production on such a platform is novel and potentially very liberating, with regards to constructive social and political discourse...assuming the "editors" at Mini USA permit the medium to fulfill this potential.

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