CLOSE-UP: GLOBAL BRIEF; New trackside ads for Atlanta

Richard Cook checks out the latest ad technology to be used for the Olympics

Richard Cook checks out the latest ad technology to be used for the


We’ve all done it: sat through a scoreless Deportivo La Coruna-Athletico

Bilbao skirmish on satellite, idly wondering what on earth possessed the

visitors to go with that change of strip. Then, glancing at the

advertising hoardings surrounding the pitch, we suddenly find ourselves

transported back to that beach party on the Costa Blanca where we sat

and talked, sharing her pack of Fortuna Lights and waiting for dawn.

And, after staring longingly at this Fortuna Lights hoarding every time

it’s caught on camera, we’ve all made plans to give up on the game and

go and buy some. An hour later, cursing the tobacco selection at every

Londis within a ten-mile radius, we get to wondering, rather churlishly,

about all the wastage in Fortuna’s media buying strategy. And that’s

where Imadgine comes in.

This Netherlands-based company is a joint venture between two unlikely

bedfellows - Orad, an Israeli defence electronics company, and ISL, a

sports promotion agency that sells perimeter advertising at some of the

world’s biggest sporting events. The development credit is all Orad’s,

and the system it has produced is a by-product of technology developed

for the defence industry, which can distinguish between stationary

objects and whatever is moving in front of them.

Once the special hoardings are installed, television viewers watching

the same sporting event can be sent different trackside messages. A

godsend for multinational companies with different regional markets. Or

else the same site could be sold several times over to companies whose

products are aimed only at specific markets.

The system will make its debut in Atlanta’s new Olympic Stadium at an

athletics meeting on 11 May. More than 200 countries will be watching

and, if an advertiser like General Motors wanted to display its latest

GM car to the audience in the US, Vauxhall to the UK, and Opel to the

rest of Europe, then it would be able to do so. The system should be in

widespread use by the time the Olympic Games start later in the summer

and Imadgine is hoping it will eventually be used in a wide variety of

sporting contests.

So far, the hi-tech system has received the requisite polite noises from

agencies familiar with its operation - that it reduces wastage and lets

global advertisers act on a local level. Rival products that have

appeared to date have not been able to deliver different messages to a

whole host of markets. Imadgine is claiming its product is different. If

so, it could change the armchair viewer’s sporting reveries forever.