A Dubai media company plans a big roll-out of digital advertising screens that it says can help to sell chocolate and concert tickets - and even to catch criminals.
Air Mediasells advertising on 300 digital screens in UAE petrol stations and retail outlets, and plans to boost its network in the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia.
"Our expansion plan is for 5,000 [screens] across the territories … within a year to a year and a half," said Matthew Pickering, the commercial director at Air Media.
The company uses digital screens developed by Amscreen, a digital-media company owned by the British business magnate Lord Sugar, who hosts the BBC TV show The BBC TV show The Apprentice. Air Media sells advertising on screens at Enoc, Eppco and Emarat service stations and at other retail outlets. Air Media claims a potential monthly audience of about 7.1 million for its screens in the Emirates. A separate company called SmartScreendistributes Amscreen digital screens in the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia, while Air Media handles advertising sales and deals with retail partners.
Mr Pickering said the company aimed to expand its network in the three regions in which it now has a presence.
In Oman, the company is installing 90 screens, and about 200 in Angola. "We're already in conversations now, looking to expand into networks in [Saudi Arabia], Qatar and Kuwait," he said. "By the end of this year, we are aiming to be in those markets."
Air Media's advertising clients in the UAE have included Flash - the organiser of this week's Madonna concerts in Abu Dhabi - as well as Nestlé, Red Bull, du and Emirates NBD.
Each screen features 12 advertisements on a loop, including two for its retail partner and one for Air Media. The National provides breaking-news alerts for the service, occupying one of the 12 advertising spaces. That leaves "eight billable spots" that can be bought by advertisers, said Mr Pickering.
"You can run a month's campaign for as little as Dh1,000 [US$272] across one screen," he said. "We're actually very close to being at capacity now."
He said the effectiveness of the network could be tested by analysing sales figures in the retail outlets in which the screens were displayed, or by using dedicated phone lines or SMS numbers. Of the fast-moving consumer goods advertised on the screens, Air Media claims the result is an average sales increase of 26.7 per cent.
One of the most successful campaigns was for Rugby Sevens ticket sales in the UAE, which Mr Pickering said prompted a "week-on-week 116 per cent uplift in sales" over two weeks.
The company also plans to install "facial tracking" softwareto analyse how many people look at specific adverts, and to note details such as sex and approximate age.
One novel use for the screens is to help to catch criminals, Mr Pickering added. In the United Kingdom, Amscreen has used its network for public-awareness campaigns, including helping the police by publicising information about fugitives, Mr Pickering said.