Tech start-up uses facial recognition for ‘meaningful’ ads

Ralf Rivas

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Tech start-up uses facial recognition for ‘meaningful’ ads
Tech start-up AdMov installs tablets in the backseats of cars of ride-hailing services. The tablets then use their cameras to scan the faces of passengers.

MANILA, Philippines – It’s been getting a little crowded for billboards in Metro Manila, much to the detriment of both advertisers and consumers.

For instance, people are bombarded along EDSA with too much information, at times irrelevant to them. 

On the other hand, advertisers are unable to reach their intended audience due to saturation and visual fatigue.

A start-up in the Philippines claims it may have found the solution, and says it’s a win for both advertisers and consumers: facial recognition.


How it works

Tech start-up AdMov installs tablets in the backseats of cars of ride-hailing services like Grab. The drivers apply for the installation and get incentives for every playback of advertisement on the tablet. 

But the magic begins once a passenger hops on the car.

The tablets use their cameras to scan the faces of passengers in the backseat. Using facial recognition technology, the tablets can estimate the gender, age, and even mood of the passenger.

Using the information generated, the tablet then is able to curate the appropriate content and advertisements that are intended for the passenger. 

“When we show ads, it gives data to advertisers as well. We use this for targeting and for brands. There is no wastage,” said Bobby Cristuta, co-founder of AdMov.

The artificial intelligence (AI) software also takes into consideration the location of the vehicle. For instance, if one is in Pasig City, it shows a presentation that features a brief history of the area. 

For advertising purposes, it also shows passengers recommended restaurants.

If one is near malls or passing through EDSA, the tablet can also alert passengers if there are sales nearby.

Ellard Capiral, founder and CEO of AdMov, said that they offer a “right mix” of advertising and “meaningful content” to keep the passengers glued on to the screen.

“The program also tracks eyeballs. If you are no longer paying attention to the ad, we mix it up and offer content like trivia and that pulls the passenger’s attention back,” Capiral said.

Security concerns

Since the technology uses the camera and facial recognition, is there a privacy breach?

Capiral and Cristuta claimed there is none, since it only scans and approximates the age, gender, and mood of passengers.

“We do not store photos and videos, the camera is there just to scan. Advertisers only have access to estimates, but they won’t see your face,” Cristuta said.

They also claimed that their legal team ensured that the technology does not breach the provisions of the data security act. (READ: Data privacy 101: What businesses should know about systems registration)

AdMov’s tablets are currently installed in some 500 ride-sharing vehicles in the Philippines. They plan to expand to Singapore and Taiwan next year. 

Trends and future applications

Based on the data-driven advertising approach, AdMov is able to provide a “geekier” insight on consumer behavior.

“We had a client that was able to tweak their advertisement to have more impact through the analytics,” Cristuta said. 

They also found that the trivial and funny are a big hit for consumers.

“We also screen the ads and content. If we feel the ad does not fit in our lineup of content, we outright reject and do not include it since we want the attention of passengers. If it does not catch attention, it hurts our other advertisers as well,” Capiral said.

The company says they see the future of their technology for news applications as well.

“If a passenger passes through an area and there is a major accident or fire there, they can be alerted. But we need more partners for that type of content,” Cristuta said. –

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.