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UK Billboards Equipped with License Plate Spy Cameras
Billboard campaign in the UK uses Minority Report style license plate recognition cameras to target advertising.

Castrol billboard
An advertising campaign in the UK began using automated number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to identify passing vehicles and create personalized advertisements. The motor oil giant Castrol UK Limited yesterday activated a set of five electronic billboards in London that flash an image of the exact type of Castrol-brand motor oil appropriate for the nearest vehicle.

"The right oil for your car is: Castrol Magnatec 5W-30 A1," the advertisement reads for eight seconds as a Jaguar with the license plate 1DFL drives past.

The roadside digital billboards, seventeen feet wide and eight feet high, are owned by Clear Channel Outdoor. Castrol's campaign added the license scanning technology which ties into the official UK Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) database. The agency provides private registration information to just about any company willing to pay the desired fee. According to Castrol, this particular campaign does not store any information about what vehicles or drivers pass the sign.

"The majority of car owners have little understanding of the purpose of oil in an engine, and as a result are using oil which is not beneficial to their type and age of car, resulting in higher maintenance costs and fuel consumption," Ali Gee, head of consultancy at Three Monkeys, Castrol's advertising firm, explained in a statement. "Our campaign will help to convey the benefits of ensuring the use of the right oil for your car."

ANPR cameras are used by law enforcement and private companies throughout the US and the UK with no established legal framework limiting their use. Castrol's website offers more detailed information about a vehicle's specifications based upon its license plate.

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