Station to Station

Gotham Taxi-casts Deliver Street-Level Spots

12/14/2010 02:44:40 PM

Interesting read in the NY Times about the broadcasts airing in the back seats of New York City taxicabs, which use GPS to serve up super-local spots based on the rider’s exact whereabouts.

Both WABC and WNBC produce mini newscasts and other local content for taxis, which have deals with one or the other network.

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Writes the Times:

Once dismissed as a moving billboard dominated by advertising for strip clubs and beer, the yellow cab (and its backseat screen) is emerging as an unlikely vehicle for marketing techniques more common to the Internet than to a beat-up Crown Victoria.

The number of advertisers - including national brands like AOL, Citibank and Sprint - has doubled since last year, with cabs featuring everything from commercials for Broadway shows to a political advocacy campaign by Human Rights Watch.

Riders can turn off the TVs, but the story says they usually don’t (85% keep them on). So the spots reach a captive audience, and one that has the money (or works for a company that has the money) to take a taxi.

On a personal note, I was in a New York cab Saturday night, and I noticed the screen featured a real-time map of exactly where our cab was in between Grand Central Terminal and an Irish pub called Fiddlesticks down in the Village. The map highlighted parking garages–a half dozen or so of them at all times–along the route. Not restaurants or boutiques or gyms or churches, but parking garages.

I don’t recall if it was a WABC or WNBC taxi-cast–I was disoriented from the thousands of drunken Santas, elves and reindeers traipsing around the city for the goofy Santacon tradition.

But it struck me as way strange–and, frankly, a bad use of interactive technology–to highlight the one service that you most certainly will not be needing while sitting in a taxicab.

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