Renault has unveiled a roadside advertising campaign for the new Megane that uses vehicle recognition technology to target ads at specific cars.

Cameras on a billboard are tied into a license plate database identifying make, model and colour. The system then uses that information, plus audience demographics data, to determine which cars it should target with an advert based on the game I Spy. The image above shows the sort of advert that is displayed.

The system is in place on a single billboard at the busy Holland Park Roundabout in West London, facing a set of traffic signals. The campaign lasts for two weeks there and will be rolled to other locations across the UK.

Colette Casey, Renault UK Brand Communications Manager, said: “The technology really pushes the boundaries, enabling us to showcase the All-New Mégane in an engaging and unique way. Our aspirations are not only about showing a stylish image of the All-New Mégane, but to speak to customers in a fun and friendly way. What is also particularly clever about vehicle recognition technology is that it allows us to speak directly to drivers, something we haven’t been able to do before in roadside advertising.”

This whole concept will probably seem appalling to American sensibilities, but license plate recognition technology is a fact of daily life in the UK, where vehicle and driver data is held centrally. The police use the technology to determine the legal status of a car and its driver, and private companies are allowed to buy the data for purposes like Renault's ad campaign. Even so, I suspect most people will probably find a billboard message directed at them a little unnerving.