Now Ride-Hailing Cars Have Ad Screens

September 14, 2015 by Dave Haynes


Entrepreneurs have for many years now tried putting screens in taxis as a targeted advertising medium – with results best described as mixed.

I think we’ve all slid into a taxi somewhere, got ourselves settled, and then quickly located the mute button so that whatever ad was on the screen would stop jabbering at us. I’ve watched the amazing muscle memory of Las Vegas taxi drivers who could reach way up and behind them to, in one motion, shut up Steve Wynn as he started cooing on a screen about the luxury of his resort.

What started in taxis is now trying to find its way into private cars that are part of the Uber and Lyft systems in US cities.

A company called Vugo has just announced it has joined The Digital Place Based Advertising Association (DPAA), with the intent of developing some mindshare in the media planning world.

Says the news release:

Vugo’s TripIntent algorithm and technology allows advertisers to target ads dynamically based on the intent of a passenger’s ride while displaying interactive in-vehicle advertising immediately before passengers of Uber and Lyft cars make purchasing decisions at their destinations.”

Recently, Vugo launched a button on its advertising, enabling Uber drivers to receive electronic gratuities from passengers for the first time.

The company suggests that there are 400,000 rideshare drivers in the US making 1-2 million trips daily, which creates a big, untapped media moment.

I think the trip analytics and hyperlocal ad targeting is interesting, but the whole screens in taxis thing is such a tough dynamic to sell – never mind how this set-up is in anything but a standardized fleet of cars (my Uber rides have been everything from BMW X3s to Nissan Sentras). On the positive side, the business model requires the drivers to pay for and put in the tablets, and tether the tablets to their smartphones to get data services.

So Vugo is essentially just making an app available, and drivers have to do the rest.

The website images I have seen – which are remarkably few – of the set-up in cars also makes me jumpy as hell. Vugo puts in tablets mounted, it appears, on the backs of front seat headrests. You get a sudden stop, and the back seat passengers face MAY be heading smack into that glass and metal tablet, or the bracket edges.


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