It was a big trend-to-watch last year, and it's bigger this year. While only about 14% of phones were equipped a year ago, that number is about 30%, said Saul Kato, CEO at Qwikker (formerly Wideray), a San Francisco company that has mostly launched Bluetooth campaigns in the U.K. but is beginning to market the technology in the U.S. In fact, 50% of new phones sold in the U.S. are Bluetooth-enabled. An advertiser can attach a Bluetooth transmitter -- usually no larger than a hockey puck -- to an ad, which then instructs users they can access the content by turning on their phones' Bluetooth function.
The new model, Mr. Kato said, is to push a mobile channel -- a set of rich content packaged into what is essentially a small, cached website so a phone doesn't have to stay connected to the Bluetooth transmitter to navigate the site. In the U.K., Quikker delivered a mobile World Cup channel for Yahoo through transmitters on ads in pubs. A similar deal with Red Bull delivered the Red Bull Air Race channel.
Another company, Kameleon Mobile Technologies, is working with CBS Outdoor. And JC Decaux is using its own Bluetooth technology.
It doesn't cost the end user anything to download content via Bluetooth. And Mr. Kato said the mobile carriers like it because "we're helping the mobile industry get people onto a diet of content."
Call it next-generation paper. While some major out-of-home players are starting to aggressively deploy LED and LCD screens, the most promising technology for broadly deploying dynamic outdoor advertising is digital ink.
How's this for a chemistry lesson? The technology for the "ink" is based on helix-shape molecules, which if stretched to a certain length reflect on color. Stretch them further and they reflect a different color. And so on. And unlike LCD and LED, digital ink looks bright in broad daylight.
The technology costs significantly less than both LED and LCD to deploy and should increase the number of boards that support dynamic advertising, which allows marketers to change messages throughout the day and buy in dayparts (think McDonald's advertising breakfast sandwiches in the morning; Johnnie Walker advertising around happy hour). It will also eliminate printing costs.
Magink has been developing the product for six years and has been doing some trials abroad, most recently with Clear Channel Outdoor in the U.K. Ran Poliakin, founder-chief marketing officer, said to expect to see it in the U.S. as early as next year.
Interactive Video Screens
In May at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, Accenture launched a rather "Minority Report"-ish interactive video screen, which let travelers use their hands to manipulate content, including weather, news and Tiger Woods' greatest putts, on a 10-by-7-foot touch screen. A month later, it unveiled a similar screen at New York's Kennedy Airport. Right now the technology isn't being sold, but Accenture has been in discussions with several companies about commercializing it.
JC Decaux, meanwhile, is hoping to import from Europe video-embedded bus shelters that have a button users can push to choose which movie clip to watch.
Interactive video screens often are activated by text messaging. LocaModa allows people to use their mobile phones as a remote controls to call up content on an internet-connected video screen. Real-estate firms, for example, have begun using it to let passers-by browse their listings on flat-panel TVs.
~ ~ ~
Kate MacArthur contributed to this report.