The holy grail of advertising is creating a targeted message for specific individuals based on their shopping habits. The more information they have about you, the better they can offer you things they know you want. This is one of the biggest reasons your favorite retailers and restaurants offer loyalty cards. Join this membership program, and we'll occasionally send you coupons and make it so every purchase counts toward some small reward. That information can be used to predict your shopping habits, and build sales based on your unique shopping experience.
Today, you get those coupons and ads for things the advertisers think you want in paper or app notification form. At CES, I saw a demonstration of a seamless method of serving those same coupons and ads as you walk by digital posters. And for most people, it won't even be clear how or why this new form of advertising is even happening.
The co-inventors of NFC, NXP Semiconductors, always have a huge display at CES every year. And for a good reason, a lot of what this company does is very much a "show, don't tell" experience. The future these people envision is largely amazing, I saw a demo of a fridge next to a gas pump that opened up when you paid for something from your phone, totally eliminating the need to run into the store to get a drink when you fill up your car. There was also a crazy new tamper-evident seal for things like super expensive bottles of alcohol, making it possible to tap your phone to the top of the bottle and instantly confirm the authenticity of the product as well as its integrity. Super cool things that are partially in the world already, and well designed from my time with it.
But then I was sent over to this digital sign on the wall. It looked like any other display I'd seen in Vegas this week, offering ads for different experiences around the city. When I got about five steps from the sign, it flickered and the information on the sign changed. Suddenly my name was on the board, in big bold letters, and it 100% was not there a moment ago.
When I checked in to the NXP booth, they gave me a bracelet. That accessory, pictured above, had a special new UHF strip in it, which NXP had loaded up with information from my CES badge. The guy walking me through the demo stopped as I stared at the sign and says "now, imagine that UHF strip embedded in a loyalty card in your wallet. All of a sudden, you could walk by this sign and have ads targeted directly too you based on your shopping habits"! The sound of his excitement was drowned out by all of the giant red flags going off in my brain.