Imagine walking down the street and seeing a digital ad that seemed created just for you. Funny timing that I saw an ad for a cosmetics stores, because I’ve been searching for a new lipstick!

Not funny timing. Thanks to a UK-based marketing agency, the ad knew what you’ve been seeking because of the “cookie crumbs” left by your smartphone.

A new technology in the UK has been directly targeting consumers, using the WiFi from smart phones. It can tell where you’ve been travelling, at least within a certain radius of where the ad was placed.

In this case, the ads are placed on trash cans in London’s financial district, home to one of London’s biggest tourist destinations- St. Paul’s Cathedral. (Yes, the ads would be able to determine if you’re a local or tourist.)


For the advertiser, this is a prime chance to directly target individuals as they walk right by. No “mass marketing” here. The ad would change based on who was walking by at the time. As mentioned, the technology can differentiate between locals and tourists, allowing for even more direct marketing targeting.


For the consumer, a directly targeted ad based on what you’ve been searching for can be seen as an invasion of privacy. Consumers willfully give up some privacy for the use of digital platforms, however, that information used offline and in public has been seen an abuse of that “social contract.”

Because of privacy concerns, the ad firm behind this has been told to stop and the City of London is now looking into it.

Just so you know, you can like, just throw out your garbage in the bins. Maybe just turn off your phone before you do.