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Facial recognition ad targets women to raise awareness

By May 10, 2012 6 Comments

A new facial recognition powered ad has been installed at a billboard bus stop in London as part of an innovative advertising initiative. The best part? It’s for an amazing cause!

Plan UK, a non-profit that brings educational opportunities to children in developing countries, has decided to invest their advertising dollars in facial recognition technology as part of their Because I am a Girl campaign. The 40 second, interactive ad plays on a screen adjacent to a billboard after scanning the faces of its viewers and determining that they are female.

The video shows footage of three 13-year-old girls from the UK, Mali and Thailand talking about their hopes and dreams and the harsh limitations that girls face growing up in developing countries, as well as the drastic lack of resources available to them. The organization cites that 75 million girls around the world are denied access to education every year, with 10 million in developing countries being forced into marriage under the age of 18 and thousands more giving birth to children at very young ages.

Plan UK CEO, Marie Staunton says, “Millions of girls across the globe are being denied the right and choice to have an education. This ad is a deliberate attempt to raise public debate on this issue. Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign works with women and men, girls and boys, to challenge the discrimination that girls face as a result of their sex. We work to challenge negative stereotypes.”

Gender-targeted advertising promotes educational equality.

The pricey ad (a 2 week run costs around 50k) boasts a 90% accuracy and the organization funding it claims that its aim is to give men “a glimpse of what it’s like to have basic choices taken away.“ When the facial recognition technology determines a male is viewing the ad, they are simply shown a website to visit where they can get more information on Plan UK.

The Because I am a Girl Campaign highlights the ways in which girls in poverty are drastically limited in terms of their educational opportunities in comparison to their male counterparts. Staunton makes a point to say that boys and men do play an essential role in combating this sort of discrimination and invites them to join the cause. The campaign encourages feedback by using the Twitter hashtag #choicesforgirls.

Currently, the screen is only installed at one bus stop, but there are plans to expand this mode of marketing if it proves successful. London is famously known for their extensive, city-wide surveillance system, so having one’s face captured and digitized may not feel as invasive to the citizen already used to the watchful eye of cameras.

How the ad responds to transgender individuals or others who don’t identify with a man/woman gender binary, still remains to be seen, as does its overall effectiveness as a new form of target marketing. But the ability to engage consumers through this type of medium can undoubtedly be powerful if used the right way. Until this technology shows up in an exploitative fashion, it’s comforting to see it used to generate attention toward a good cause that empowers women and promotes equality in exposure to resources. Plan UK deserves major props for a marketing strategy with such strong symbolism.