IMMI creates a cell phone that really listens

ImiThe NYT published an article yesterday profiling Integrated Media Measurement (IMMI), a start-up based in San Mateo, Calif. that has taken the concept of measuring advertising effectiveness a step further.
Although companies can accurately track how effective their online ads are thanks to click-thru percentages and a variety of other metrics, someone has yet to come up with a reliable system to determine the success rate of ads for television and radio media. IMMI is prepared to tackle this problem with a creative, if not invasive, solution.

Once you agree to participate, IMMI provides you with a cell phone. Not only do they give you a phone for free, but they pick up the bill for all the calls you make on it. Here’s where it gets interesting: every 30 seconds, the phone records a 10 second sound clip from your surroundings. When you’re carrying the phone, a third of everything you hear is captured. That data is then uploaded to IMMI, at which point it is analyzed to determine exactly what advertisements you heard through out the day. That information is that cross-referenced with purchases you make; the company can install “Bluetooth beacons” in the stores of their clients, recording exactly when you enter and leave, in addition to what you buy.

The company launched in 2003 and so far has taken on 10 clients, among them ESPN and NBC. They currently have over 3,000 participants enrolled in the program (they recruit teenagers up to adults at 54 years old), each under an agreement to carry the phone for 2 years.

Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Advanced Technology Ventures funded the firm for a combined $14 million.

This technology brings us one step closer to the imagined future of the Tom Cruise flick “Minority Report,” in which stores scan your retina and identify you as soon as you walk in. Thanks to the wonders of Bluetooth, IMMI is already doing this. We’re still waiting on a company to come out with free designer sunglasses that record what ads you look at. This type of tech is surely coming. If IMMI is any indicator, we may not have to wait long.

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2 Responses to “IMMI creates a cell phone that really listens”

  1. By Kira on Sep 11, 2021 | Reply

    Quite interesting! Are they going to compete with Nielsen’s ratings, ultimately? They should have enough info to do that.

  2. By Carobeth Bennett on Apr 23, 2021 | Reply

    The message “due to overwhelming response to our offer” you get while on hold for customer service is a cover for “we really can’t support what we’ve done”.

    I have used the Nielsen-IMMI supplied phone since Oct 2007. No problems and loved it until…something goes wrong with the phone. The first time the phone went dead I called ATT since it was an ATT phone waited about a week for the return box to arrive. NO box arrived - must call IMMI. IMMI promplty sent out a box and got my new phone within a week. So no phone for about 2 1/2 weeks.

    Then the beginning of April I noticed the signal was of the second phone dropping more frequently. Got an email from IMMI saying they weren’t getting any transmissions. I tried all the email suggestions to no avail and told them there was no signal except on the highway. They actually wanted me to reinstall software while on the highway since there no longer was signal in my home! I said no way! I’ve called several times asking for help and then for how to get out of the contract without having to pay termination fees to ATT - you guessed it - no return emails or phone calls.

    Great ideas - but I have the growing pains. Carobeth Bennett - North Carolina

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