Monday, March 5, 2012

Sex Discrimination On The High Street

A new kind of outdoor ad is being tested on Oxford Street in London’s West End.
It's an interactive billboard, which uses a high-definition camera to scan pedestrians and identify their gender before showing a specific ad. The built-in system has a 90% accuracy rate in analysing a person’s facial features and determining if they’re male or female.
The £30,000 display is set up by Plan UK, a not-for-profit organization that helps children in third-world countries. Female passersby will be shown a full 40sec. video of its "Because I'm a Girl" campaign, that promotes sponsoring a poor girl to receive proper education in a developing country. But males won't be able to see the full ad: they'll be directed to Plan UK's website instead. Men and boys are denied the choice to view the full content, in order to highlight that women and girls across the world are denied choices and opportunities on a daily basis, due to poverty and discrimination. Plan UK says the purpose of this is to show men "a glimpse of what it's like to have basic choices taken away."
The ad campaign will run for two weeks and hopes to raise £250,000 in donations during the next four months. 
But what puzzles me about this otherwise technically quite clever campaign is: why deliberately cut off half of their potential donors simply because they're male? If, as Plan UK says, the purpose is to give guys a taste "of what it's like to have basic choices taken away", it's highly likely that males will simply shrug their shoulders and keep on walking, without bothering to access the website later.
Now, if the facial recognition billboard was for - let's say - a female sanitary product, a women-only viewing might make sense, but this segregation-by-sex may well cost Plan UK some sponsors, and thus makes no sense to me...

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