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U.S. College Campuses This Fall to Roll Out NFC Tag Advertising Displays

Suppliers will deploy over 900 NFC-enabled advertising displays on 75 U.S. college campuses for the fall, hoping to capitalize on the high penetration of smartphone ownership on U.S. campuses.

The advertising displays, supplied by U.S.-based mobile marketing company Blue Bite and U.S.-based advertising agency CBN Campus Media, will use NFC, QR codes, geo-fencing, and SMS messaging, and will appear in dormitories, student union buildings, cafeterias, and outdoor spaces. Students will be able to tap, scan, or text or download applications, coupons, offers, and other marketing content.

Blue Bite has not yet named any specific advertisers, but they may include the colleges themselves. CEO Mikhail Damiani told NFC Times, “In certain instances, the universities will be able to use the mTAGs as channels to communicate with their students about important announcements and to promote events and services of the university.” He was referring to the company’s Blue Bite’s mTAG marketing platform.

The colleges include a mixture of public and private institutions, including Arizona State University, George Washington University, Illinois State University, Texas State University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, and University of Pennsylvania. Blue Bite told NFC Times that other schools in the deployment are located in Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.

Some of the advertisements will be static displays such as smart posters, while others will be digital ads such as video panels. There will be a combination of permanent and temporary displays, Blue Bite CEO Mikhail Damiani told NFC Times.

In March 2013, Blue Bite deployed its mTAG mobile marketing platform on 2,000 digital advertising screens from Adspace Networks, located at 140 U.S. malls and shopping centers. Those displays used both NFC and QR codes; Blue Bite says that mTAG is a “technology agnostic” platform.

In May, NFC tags and QR codes were installed on video advertising screens belonging to Creative Media Technologies in 5,000 taxis in New York, Boston, and Chicago. The same month, Australia-based mobile marketing company Tapit installed NFC tags on 80 taxis in the UK as part of a campaign with Samsung to promote singer Robbie Williams’ musical tour.

Damiani calls September’s campus deployment “the largest such rollout of NFC across higher education institutions in the U.S.” In 2011, Canada-based marketing company Gauge Mobile and advertising agency Newad launched 200 NFC advertising displays at an unspecified number of college campuses in Canada.

According to U.S.-based digital marketing research firm eMarketer, smartphone penetration among college students in the U.S. is around 70%, compared with 55% among the general U.S. population. “This makes them more likely to engage via QR and NFC than average,” said Damiani.

Universities have begun trialing NFC for access control and limited payment applications. In June 2010, Newham College of Further Education in London issued NFC-capable phones to four instructors. The instructors could tap students’ ID cards with their phones to take class attendance during the four week trial, which was expected to lead to a rollout on two campuses.

In August 2011, Arizona State University, which is also participating in the tag-based advertising rollout, launched a pilot of NFC access control in which 32 students and staff members could use contactless access cards or store their access information on a microSD card in their NFC-capable smartphones. In 2012, the University of San Francisco began a phased rollout of NFC access control using both smartcards and NFC-capable smartphones; students could also use tap their cards or phones to pay at the campus laundromat. 

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