Walk down Chicago's Michigan Avenue on your way to work and a bright green kiosk just might ask you if you've had your breakfast yet. You haven't, so maybe the voice piques your interest. Head over to it and the display tells you that it just so happens Groupon has a great deal going on for breakfast and it's only three doors down. All you need to do is buy it using the on-screen keyboard that pops up and the kiosk's card reader, and the deal gets zapped to your phone.

These displays have been on Chicago streets and venues since December, when the new start-up Elevate Digital took the plunge into interactive advertising in high-density areas. CEO George Burciaga says his company's secret sauce is in the operating system, apps, and social connectivity behind these displays--and so far, it's helping his scrappy start-up make inroads in an industry that, until recently, has been dominated by only a few large players.

Display Advertising Gets More Dynamic

The displays include large 46- to 55-inch touchscreens that offer not only hyperlocal Groupon deals for retailers within the vicinity, but also a wealth of content people might want, such as city information and attractions, news, transportation information, and even a 911 app that lets passersby contact the police in the event of an emergency. And everything playing on the display can be changed in an instant.

The displays can play video such as movie trailers and engage people by asking them to input their contact information to enter a contest for free tickets.

They also can take goofy pictures and video of people who opt in to send the images to their Facebook friends or to email. While it might sound gimmicky, Burciaga argues that the social sharing aspect of the displays can markedly amp up the number of impressions an ad gets.

He says in June 120,000 people sent a photo to Facebook from one of nearly 40 machines in Chicago. When you multiply those transactions by the number of people within the Facebook network who may have seen the photo and the Groupon ad that went with it, the number of impressions skyrockets into the millions.

"We've just created a social media transaction for Groupon that never existed," Burciaga says.

Metrics Even the Ad Conglomerates Love

At one time, Burciaga thought Clear Channel--the largest outdoor advertising company--would be Elevate's biggest competitor. But as it turns out, Clear Channel has become one of its biggest partners, and is working with the company to put the interactive displays in airports.

While Clear Channel has static signs and billboards everywhere, Burciaga says his displays improve upon such traditional media in that not only are they more engaging, their effectiveness is more measurable.

"I can tell you who's touching it, how often they're touching it, what the impressions look like in social media, [and] how frequently they're coming back," he says. "We can become more predictive from the behavioral statistics we're collecting so if we know John [used a display] four times and he typically goes to the movie theatres we know it's more than likely a good idea to send him something relevant to the movies he's seeing."

The displays keep track of how individuals use them based upon what information people give them.

"I don't want to estimate how many people walk by. I want to talk to them. I want to get to know them. I want them to know more about the product that I'm advertising. We're able to do that," Burciaga says.

What's Next

Burciaga says Elevate Digital's 38 displays in Chicago collectively get about 500,000 interactions--such as a photo taken--every 30 days and that number is growing at about 22%.

With 16 employees, the company just raised $2.7 million in funding in May and is closing up the balance of a $4 million round in the next 60 days.

Look for the displays next in Miami and after that, New York.