Facial Recognition Targets Ads

Toshiba is using facial images of fans at Staples Center

  • by Diamond Leung
  • Published: July 11, 2017

Staples Center, Los Angeles.

(Editor's note: This story previously appeared in SportTechie.com)

To provide an example of how Toshiba uses audience measurement technology and facial images to generate advertisements at venues — Staples Center among them — a company executive looked out into the lower lobby of The Times Center, New York City.

“What we’re doing is taking a picture of the audience right now,” Toshiba’s Chief Marketing Executive Bill Melo said of how the technology works at other venues. “There are 35 people in here — 18 women. And that’s it. We don’t know who you are. We don’t know that you went from here to someplace else in the building. We could. There’s technology that does that, and there are places that you would do that. For an airport, you might want to make sure you know. But we don’t do it. It’s just really aggregated demographic information — really innocuous.”

Toshiba for the past three seasons has used this technology during events at Staples Center — home of teams including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Kings. Cameras scan faces to determine age and gender, and the advertising adjusts accordingly. For example, advertising for fans to buy a mixed drink would work for certain age groups and not for others. The same goes for a Victoria’s Secret ad.

“It’s anonymous, so we’re not recording,” Melo said at Hashtag Sports. “We’re not tracking people wherever they are. But we know if it’s a young man or an older woman or whatever, and we’re actually changing the content based on the demographic.”

At Staples Center, LA Interactive powered by Toshiba is located on their arena’s main concourse and is designed to enhance the fan experience with interactive content, social media visualizations and a look at the live game action using video walls and touch displays. Also a part of that fan engagement area is technology looking at facial images so Toshiba can use tools they call a crowd meter and a dwell meter to see who’s hanging out there at the moment.

“We utilize both of those and basically bring an algorithm that says when the demographic changes to such-and-such a mix, then it implements a change in sequence of content,” said Melo.

“And it’s subtle. If there’s a rotation of images, it might skew a little bit toward the demographic mix.”

Anecdotally, Melo said, the patronage in that area has consistently grown while the technology has been used. He said the goal was to integrate it with a concessionaire to measure its performance based upon the success of the technology.

To deploy facial imaging in Staples Center, Melo said Toshiba went through “a pretty extensive discussion” to be able to do it. The technology is also used at other AEG venues such as T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and also in Berlin, he said.

  • by Diamond Leung
  • Published: July 11, 2017