Non-profit organisation Plan UK has installed a digital billboard on London’s Oxford Street which only displays its full content to women.

Plan’s ‘Because I am A Girl’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the issues faced by world’s poorest women, and prevents men from viewing the content to mirror the fact that girls “are denied choices and opportunities on a daily basis due to poverty and discrimination.”

The billboard uses facial recognition software with an HD camera to determine the gender of the person standing in front of it, and claims to have a 90% success rate.

Women are then shown a 40 second ‘Choices For Girls’ ad showcasing the lives of three 13-year-old girls, while men are only shown a link to Plan’s website.

But while the interactive billboard is certainly providing Plan with some useful press coverage, does the novelty value of the technology indicate that it probably doesn’t have legs as a useful marketing tool?

Plan UK CEO Marie Staunton said the ad is a deliberate attempt to raise public debate, and while it should achieve this aim it would be interesting to see whether it has any success in driving donations.

Last month Intel unveiled similar technology for consumer brands that want to tailor their adverts to different demographics. Adidas was the first to use it in a virtual footwear sales wall.

Intel's technology displays different products depending on demographic profiles, and also collects useful data for marketers on who is stopping to look at adverts.

But while an instore display is useful in providing consumers with product information, especially when coupled with an interactive sales platform, putting this in use at a busy bus stop can surely only have PR value? Even though Plan seems to be ticking all the boxes to get maximum impact from its campaign.

Plan's advert contains a QR code to route viewers through to a donation page – though we haven’t tested whether the page is mobile optimised – and displays a Twitter hashtag so the campaign can be shared through social media.

But while busy commuters and tired shoppers may be interested in finding out if it can accurately guess their gender, but how many will really hang around to watch a 40-second ad? And how many will then be moved to donate?

The billboard, which is positioned at a bus stop opposite Selfridges, cost £30,000 for a two-week installation - so it doesn’t come cheap. And while the technology may work as an expensive PR stunt, the tangible benefits for consumer brands are still to be proven.

David Moth

Published 22 February, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (4)


Plan UK

Plan UK is committed to spending every penny of our donors’ money in the most effective and accountable way possible. Our main objective with this advert is to raise awareness of Plan’s work with girls in the developing world, so we can help them have more choices over their future. Through this advert, we are also generating funds for our work with girls by encouraging people to donate to our Girls’ Fund and sign our petition to end early and forced marriage. In just one day of the advert going live, we’ve already generated over 5,000 views, had more than £2,000 pledged in donations and received over 100 new sign ups to our petition.

We believe that the more people are aware about Plan’s work with girls and understand why investing in girls is crucial, the more we can help girls help themselves in the countries we work in.

Plan UK

over 6 years ago



Love the concept - what an innovative way to draw attention to the lack of choice that girls and women, particularly in developing countries, are faced with. Raising awareness is always the first step..

over 6 years ago



Looking at the Web reaction a fair number of people find it offensive. It has garnered Plan UK publicity but also brought the whole concept of gender specific donations under scrutiny.

No value judgements on my part here, but people are also questioning how well thought out the "Help the Girls" strategy of Aid is and as to whether it is sexist. Having critical voices is usually not a good PR thing, even if they are dead wrong.

This Ad has brought both positive and negative PR. Only time will really tell if its net effect has been good for Plan UK. It was a risk on Plan UK's part, you only advance if you take risks from time to time.

My guess is that in a few years this Ad will have been forgotten, but the name Plan UK will still ring a bell somewhere in peoples minds. So net effect positive but with a time lag and possibly worth the investment, but not sure.

over 6 years ago



Looks like it fizzled out and was just a gimick in the end.

Given recent news on how charity's are pushing the boundaries a little too far and actually causing distress, I thought back to this campaign. My opinion is unchanged. It alienated half the population, and was simply creepy. As a man, I was offended. I'm sure that was the point. Good job. (and no money for you)

I'm sure adverts for children will follow that parents can not see.

Each of us living in our own bubble... this kind of thing really should be banned if it is perfected. No good can come of it.

about 6 years ago

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