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Pigeons to be used to directly target consumers

LONDON - The City's surplus pigeon population is to be tagged with GPS technology to launch a new media vehicle for clients wanting to target consumers directly outdoors.

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The initiative, developed by creative advertising agency Creative Orchestra, uses GPS technology to sync-up with users mobile phones.

Using electromagnetism, the birds are able to navigate the location of their targets, using new patented technology called BYRD, originally developed for use in the American military. BYRD disrupts the pigeons natural geometrics and allows the GPS technology to steer it towards any mobile device.

By using RFID chips, the target location can be identified by a dispatched pigeon with a special digital message carrier attached to its feet.

While the use of pigeons to carry commercial messages is a new concept, they have been used by the military for decades, both as message carriers and supply deliverers.

Pigeons recently featured in an investigative report out of Brazil, where gangs use the superfluous birds to smuggle items in and out of prisons.

Chris Arnold, creative partner of Creative Orchestra said: "We looked really closely at the successful applications and saw that we could tap into them commercially. You can imagine the surprise when people get a personal message from a friendly pigeon."

Creative Orchestra already has two major clients interested in trialling pigeon media and it plans to launch 1,000 birds from Trafalgar Square today to show the effectiveness of their targeted delivery messages.

Havil Folkhaurt, Creative Orchestra's media planner, said: "We see it as a more targeted form of outdoor advertising. We can deliver a message straight to the consumer for one tenth of that of posters.

"At first people will think it's just a novelty but soon they'll see the more serious value it offers. During the summer when most people are outdoors rather than inside with computers it's an ideal way to make an impact."

BYRD was originally developed by the American military for delivery of small explosive charges over enemy lines and as a means of sending important supplies to stranded troops

During World War II, the UK used about 250,000 messenger pigeons, even creating the Dickin Medal -- the highest possible decoration of valour for animals in combat -- which was awarded to 32 pigeons, including the United States Army Pigeon Service's Private Roebuck and the Irish pigeon Paddy.

The UK maintained the Air Ministry Pigeon Section in World War II and for a while thereafter. A Pigeon Policy Committee made decisions about the uses of pigeons.

The Head of the Pigeon Policy Committee, Lea Rayner, reported in 1945 that: "We can now train pigeons to hone on any object on the ground when air-released in the vicinity... Bacteria might be delivered accurately to a target by this means. With the latest developments of explosives and bacterial science I suggest that this possibility should be closely investigated and watched."

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