Deals on wheels: Rideshare cars sport OOH ads

Companies are making it easier for brands to plaster their ads on the sides of Ubers and Lyfts.
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· 5 min read

While going back to the office has gotten a mixed response, few miss the commute. But brands miss inserting themselves into our rush hour, plastering their ads on subways, highways, or in Times Square, in hopes of capturing those barely opened eyeballs.

Over the last decade, companies like Uber and Lyft have made it easier for brands to advertise outside. How? By running ads on top of their rideshare cars via digital screens. Placing ads on cars isn’t entirely new, but it’s a reawakened industry that’s gaining steam as Covid-19 lockdowns ease🤞.

Big dogs: Uber and Lyft each each has its own OOH business; they both inked deals with inventory owners in 2020. While Uber sells inventory atop its own fleet, it also recently signed an agreement for access to 3,500 New York City taxis. So far, its active inventory is made up of 2,205 screens running in Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York. Next week, Chicago will be added to the mix.

  • Nationwide, Uber OOH is aiming for one billion impressions a month by September, which will be tracked by mobile location data.

Crosstown advertisements

Uber and Lyft aren’t the only players. Adway, founded in 2018, makes a projector that displays OOH ads on the side of a car, unlike the “toppers” used by the ridesharing companies.

It’s testing at least 20 vehicles in Santa Monica, California, measuring impressions based on mobile Bluetooth signals from other drivers and pedestrians. Clients so far include Sweetfin, Rip Curl, and Cisco Webex.

Rideshare drivers are “low-hanging fruit,” since there are already more than a million scattered across the US, Sasha Krylov, CEO of Adway, told Marketing Brew.

“It’s easy to attract someone with an opportunity to make money doing virtually nothing,” he noted, especially without the “embarrassment factor” of a cosmetic change to a vehicle, like the toppers. With projectors, drivers can easily turn the ads off. Drivers using Adway make roughly $150/month, driving about 25 times per month in the evening (that’s when the projectors work best).

Another startup, Carvertise, wraps vehicles—mostly rideshares—in vinyl decals. Started in 2012, Carvertise has signed up more than 500,000 drivers nationwide, but only about 2,000 are on the road right now. With Carvertise, drivers earn about $150 to $250 per month, with opportunities for incentives, like driving past events such as tailgates for more cash.

The problem? Finding clients who think it’ll work.

“We have a ton of drivers; it’s just about finding advertiser demand in specific markets...the hard part is making it sustainable to sell,” Greg Star, cofounder of Carvertise, told Marketing Brew.

It’s a problem Adway has faced too. “If you know the billboard on Sunset has been generating this many [impressions] and they know it for sure, nobody’s going to create a new budget for us dedicated to mobility-based OOH,” Krylov said. “There’s nothing more appealing than a gigantic billboard; you can’t deny it. We can’t compete on size, but we can compete on scale.”

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And yet: That doesn’t mean brands aren’t interested. Adway received $6 million in seed funding this month. Carvertise has already hit its yearly revenue goal of $5 million, and is hoping to hit $10 million by the end of 2021, Star told us. Within the last six months, it has signed clients like Netflix, Wawa, and Valvoline. According to him, advertisers that might have held off in the pandemic are taking advantage of a return to normalcy and pent-up demand.

The segment is “wide open,” Star explained, even if clients need a thorough education. “We're only just scratching the surface. This is still not a thing yet,” he said.

It might help if you’re a household name like Uber, which works with Adomni, a firm that helps brands buy digital OOH inventory programmatically. Adomni lets media buyers reach Uber’s digital toppers as well as other OOH inventory, like New York City’s LinkNYC pillars.

Campaigns can be up and running within an hour, Jonathan Gudai, CEO of Adomni, told Marketing Brew. Its programmatic capabilities are an advantage Adomni says will help it attract dollars not earmarked for OOH budgets.

“We want to tap into the Facebook advertising and Google advertising [budgets],” Gudai said.

The #s

Gig economy: Drivers get a slice of the advertising revenue, but the inventory owners get the biggest piece of the pie.

As of last year, Uber was giving drivers $300 to install a display screen, then paying them based on how many hours they drove. Uber didn’t respond to Marketing Brew’s inquiries.

Meanwhile, in New York City, an average campaign on Uber OOH costs about $6 per CPM, and reaches 24.5 million impressions in 30 days.

  • Adway is charging $3–4 per CPM, and reaching 170,000 impressions a month per car.
  • Carvertise campaigns cost an average of $40,000 for 20 cars wrapped for three months; they’re shooting for 12 million impressions at a CPM between $2.50 and $3.50, depending on the city.

Zoom out: It remains to be seen whether everyone’s ride becomes an advertisement. But with the proliferation of delivery and ridesharing, there’s certainly room to grow. A return to normalcy might help.

“You can send people all the data you want, but until they’re stuck in traffic themselves, they’re not going to believe it,” Star said. “That has helped a ton.”

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