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In-cab advertising avoids the Uber fallout, but potential remains untapped 

29, December, 2014

Shanta Saikia, New Delhi

The ‘Uber case’, which had grabbed headlines just a few weeks ago, may have slipped out of the front pages. However, it has left a lot of jittery commuters, especially women commuters, in its wake. Following intense media coverage and protests by social organisations for quick action, the Delhi Transport Department banned the services of quite a few cab aggregators, including Uber, TaxiForSure and Ola Cabs, in Delhi.

While the business of the banned cab operators have been hit by the Transport Department’s order, and Uber’s brand image has taken a tumble post the incident, has in-cab advertising or ‘cabvertising’ also been impacted by the entire incident?

There are some industry experts who think that the bad publicity generated by a crime as heinous as rape in a cab run by Uber will impact the image of radio cabs as a sector. However, the majority of industry experts feel that cabvertising’s share of the total advertising pie is minuscule as compared to traditional outdoor platforms, hence, the impact on cabvertising revenues post the Uber incident may not be that big a concern.

Ankit Rastogi, Joint MD, Havas Media Active, remarks, “I don’t think the brand image of the cab services have taken a hit due to the Uber incident and the banning of certain cab services following this incident.” He further adds, “As a result of the reduction in the number of cabs due to the ban, the service providers can take in more margins. The advertisers and agencies have no role in the functionality of the cab. They provide a touchpoint for the consumers to get the brand message.”

Cabvertising offers brands a cost-effective advertising medium and a captive, mostly affluent audience, with an average commuting time of 30-45 minutes. When calculated on a per ad basis, the cost of advertising on cabs is a small fraction when compared to traditional media.

Tapping the potential of this medium, Meru Cabs, as per reports, is known to have partnered with no less than 40-50 brands when it launched in 2008. Easy Cabs had LCD screens fitted into the head-rest of the front seats of its cabs, much like in an aircraft.

BFSI brands have been seen advertising on cabs extensively, while Kellogg’s used Meru Cabs for brand advertising in Mumbai in May 2014 and also carried out a sampling exercise, where Meru Cabs’ passengers were served a breakfast of Kellogg’s cornflakes in the mornings.

However, despite the potential of cabvertising, the medium remains underutilised. While agreeing that in-cab advertising remains an underutilised medium, Rastogi explains that this is due to the lack of availability of proper technology. “Though digital screens have been introduced in cabs, there has been no amalgamate use of Bluetooth technology due to poor internet connectivity. Cabs being a transit medium, there are certain pockets of internet-dark areas,” he says.

Despite the potential of in-cab advertising, revenues from the medium remains negligible largely due to operational issues. Nowadays, the campaign duration has reduced to seven or 15 or 21 days. However, installation of the campaign creative takes time. For instance, suppose a campaign calls for 100 cabs, it must be assured that all the cabs will be available for installation of the creatives at one place and at the same time. However, for the cab owner, with so many cabs tied up till the ads have been installed, it means loss of revenues.

According to Rastogi, “In order for the medium to be more effective, the lead time needs to be reduced to 3-4 days. Moreover, it also calls for more manpower.”

Meanwhile, the Uber incident itself may have moved outside the purview of media frenzy, but the stricter regulations in its wake are sure to have long-lasting impact. Will the radio cab services and cabvertising be able to surmount the ‘Uber’ challenge? Only time will tell...

Tags :  In-cab advertising Uber TaxiForSure Ola Cabs Ankit Rastogi Havas Media Active Meru Cabs Easy Cabs Kellogg’s

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