Smart outdoor gets smarter: Lexus targets competitor cars

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 18 January 2015

Lexus is launching a series of digital billboards which know the type and colour of cars going past and can even determine the time of day and weather conditions. It's "direct messaging on steriods" according to Lexus's creative agency, M&C Saatchi, and is also likely to be the first smart billboard campaign of its type, anywhere in the world, the agency claims.

The billboards, by M&C Saatchi and APN Outdoor, are designed to tailor messages to passing drivers of non-Lexus cars. There are 80 message combinations available to deliver personalised lines such as: “Hey black Merc driver, the heavens have opened. This is the new Lexus NX”.

Each billboard has a series of cameras set on a high rotation that capture images of passing traffic, and sends them to a device called APN Outdoor Classifier, which can then identify the vehicles in the images to produce a message. It’s part of the car maker’s new brand positioning, “This is the New Lexus” which aims to target a younger, more progressive luxury audience.

M&C Saatchi executive creative director Ben Welsh told AdNews the billboards are part of a greater idea that Lexus is a brand that  does things differently.

“We wanted people to look at Lexus differently and consider the excitement of the brand and think about it as a lot sexier,” Welsh said.

“That led to the idea that this is the new Lexus, and on a literal basis this is the new Lexus NX. But on a branding level this is a step change – this is a new Lexus we’re not what you thought we were and we’re changing the way we do things.”

Lexus Australia corporate manager, sales and operations, Adrian Weimers said that focus on being progressive means that every application of technology has to be something exciting. He said the billboards build on Lexus’s existing brand campaign, created by M&C Saatchi when they were appointed to the account in June last year.

“Being able to target the competitor and have a bit of fun with it is brilliant,” Weimers said.

“I think if you’re going to tell people there is something new about you it’s not only standing up and saying it, you’ve got to behave that way as well. From that point of view taking on an innovative approach to communicating that message just adds to that whole platform.”

The billboards will be made live from tomorrow (January 19) and will run for two weeks in high traffic sites in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

APN Outdoor GM of marketing Janine Wood said the sites were chosen specifically for having a high traffic flow and the demographics of who typically use them, to ensure the billboards will target the right drivers. She said APN has made a large investment in digital technology and its large format digital 'Elite Screens' because “it’s just the way of the future” for outdoor.

“All we need to do when partnering with an agency like M&C Saatchi or a client like Lexus is for them to have the confidence that when we sit down and talk about something like this that we can deliver on it,” Wood said.

“It’s important to note that the technology when we're integrating it into our assets, it's permanent, it's not just something we're doing as a stunt. It means that these boards will enabled to be able do this for other campaigns and other customers in this form.”

The billboards will go live at the entry gantry at Sydney Domestic Airport, Melbourne’s Kew Junction, King George Square in Brisbane, 142 Gouger Street in Adelaide and the entry gantry at Perth Domestic Airport.

Last week Porsche launched a similar outdoor campaign with Ooh!Media that was designed to change the creative when a Porsche driver approached sending a tailored message to existing drivers. Lexus wants to target drivers of other brands.

For more news:

OOH industry needs to excite creatives with new tech

World first for Porsche digital billboard


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