Want to do something larger-than-life-for your sweetheart this Valentine's Day? Aerva, a digital signage company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is offering people the chance to project their sweetheart's picture on a roughly 40-foot-by-40-foot billboard in New York City's Times Square with a customized message. To do so, all they need to do is tweet a mobile phone shot to @AervaNYC or email email@example.com.
To make the moment a little less fleeting, a shot of all the displayed photos (all shots are subject to approval) is taken from high above Times Square and then sent to the user as a digital keepsake that can be shared with others on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest, or downloaded directly via sharing icons. All of the images will also be displayed on a digital wall where people can vote for the best image.
"You can have your picture in Times Square without having to go there, but you can still see it. We are expanding the reach of digital out of home board and melding it with online and social," says Sanjay Manandhar, chief executive of Aerva.
Aerva provides the technology backbone for outdoor digital billboards and display, allowing brands to incorporate social functionality directly into their outside ad displays.
While this latest campaign is offered as an ongoing free promotion - which gets a new flavor come holiday time - Aerva has also managed social billboard campaigns for brands including HTC, Taco Bell, Anheuser-Busch, and even the U.S. Navy. Users who miss the Valentine's Day window will also be able to get in on other such promotions themed around Mother's Day and Halloween, Manandhar says.
Most recently, 54,000 users around the globe submitted photos of "beautiful things" for display on a Times Square billboard, hoping to win a 24K gold-plated HTC One phone. Twenty-four such phones were distributed to entrants whose pictures got the most votes from other users. Like the Valentine's Day campaign, users each got a keepsake photo to share. And for the brand, there was the added benefit of obtaining the Twitter handle and other key data from potential customers.
"At every click we have a larger set of data from an end user, which was of value to HTC," notes Manandhar, who adds that usage of data is repeatedly explained to users and something which they have to opt into. Companies can also see when usage is most active and where it came from.
Taco Bell also tapped Aerva last February to manage a "Hometown Tweet Off" via billboard, part of a campaign to promote its new Doritos Locos Tacos product. Users were asked to tweet why they deserved a visit from the @TacoBellTruck, loaded with Doritos Locos Tacos, using the hashtags #DoritosLocosTacos and #contest; the tweet that got the most retweets won the contest.
Billboards for the campaign were placed in Times Square and on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Aerva moderated the real-time tweets and also insured that there was no tweeting fraud. Taco Bell reported that sales of the new product were up 8 percent following the campaign, according to Manandhar.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
March 19, 2014