Manchester entrepreneurs, Abdul Alim and Shaz Mughal, won the People’s Choice at the prestigious Pitch At Palace initiative for their start-up, OfferMoments, which provides a personalised outdoor advertising experience inspired by Steven Spielberg’s 2002 thriller Minority Report.
It’s often funny where ideas come from. For Abdul Alim and his partner Shaz Mughal, the idea came straight out of a movie.
“I was sat with my business partner, Shaz, in our garage and we were trying to think up a new business idea,” recalled Abdul. “We couldn’t think of anything so we went inside and watched Minority Report, where Tom Cruise walks towards a billboard and it changes. We thought it would be really good to create screens in real life that change when different people walk to towards them.”
So they created OfferMoments, a retail-based advertising screen that utilises facial recognition and mobile data technology to personalise offers as different consumers approach it. Shoppers can download the app to see their face broadcast on the screen, while the technology creates and displays a special offer or item suggestion from a nearby store specific to their demographic and personal tastes.
It’s like Amazon’s suggestion engine being introduced into the real world and stands to potentially disrupt the outdoor advertising industry by using software and algorithms to automate what media agencies have historically charged big bucks for.
It also seems to solve one of the other big problems that outdoor advertising has faced since the inception of the Internet. Advertising on a digital platform allows direct tracking of return on investment. Whereas with billboards and more traditional advertising, it continues to be difficult to track the effectiveness of the adverts. OfferMoments’ technology promises to track who is seeing the ads and when.
OfferMoments has previously been in place at the Arndale centre in Manchester, where the likes of Waterstones, New Look and Adidas were among more than 200 advertising partners that signed up. It installed four screens in the centre in return for demographic data of its shoppers.
As for 2017, the startup is in talks to launch in “a very large shopping centre in London”, as well as some smaller outlets further north. Whether or not the big media players will respond to the tech with flattery, vengeance or imitation, remains to be seen.
The start-up won the Peoples’ Choice Award at Prince Andrew’s Pitch at Palace initiative where Abdul and Shaz won an audience with Her Majesty The Queen.