Facial Recognition Ad

Companies are on a quest to find more and more innovative ways to advertise their products. Not only advertise them, but even create some intrigue and become viral. And it is very positive, when you see non-profit organizations following the same rules and applying these techniques for more “noble” purposes.

Plan UK is a non-profit organization that helps  children in third-world countries. A few weeks ago, Plan UK initiated the “Because I am a Girl” campaign, introducing a ground-breaking interactive ad on a bus stop in Oxford Street (London). The interactive billboard advertisement uses a facial recognition software with a high-definition camera to scan pedestrians and identify whether a man or woman is standing in front of the screen. Accordingly, it shows different content. Females will be shown the full 40-second video of the “Because I’m a Girl” campaign that promotes sponsoring a girl to receive proper education in a developing country. Males won’t be able to see the full ad and will be directed to Plan UK’s website instead. The aim is to highlight the fact that women and girls across the world are denied choices and opportunities on a daily basis due to poverty and discrimination.

Gabriella Cilmi interacts with Plan ad

This campaign has been a success mainly due to the attention that it has attracted over its use of facial recognition technology. However, it could also cause offence if it mistakes a man for a woman and vice-versa, which could lead to some awkwardness, or even more harsh reactions. Even though the facial recognition system has a 90% accuracy rate in analyzing a person’s facial features and determining their gender.

Wondering how long will it take until the first brands start using that technology? Or could it be that excluding some people from your reach is somehow suicidal from a marketing perspective? The only truth is that the use of technology in advertising (and not only) will keep on surprising us. Remember the virtual supermarket of Tesco:



One thought on “Facial Recognition Ad”

  1. Thanks for the interesting post Dimitris! I am wondering though if this technique will enhance the attractiveness of the ad, since there are some downsides. Like you mention, a mistake in gender recognition can be very painful for the viewer, thereby ignoring the message and feeling offended. Further, I think this technique comes with a price, and I’m wondering whether that investment is worth it.
    If used properly the possibilities to use QR codes for instance can be very successful and a lot cheaper. Here’s an example of the movie Iron Man 2 that used a QR code in its posters, redirecting viewers to a special website with info to the movie and theaters and show times:

    In addition to the Tesco wall, here is a recent example on how L’oréal did something similar in New York:


    Like you said, the evolvement of technologies is going to bring an extra dimension into advertising. It is going to be interesting to see if consumers will pick up on it or if companies are ahead of them.

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