Ride-hailing founder Uber is following its rivals with plans to launch adverts in and on its taxis.
In trials in its home city of San Francisco and in Los Angeles, Uber is using tablets in its private hire taxis to show adverts to passengers. And with valuable data at its fingertips, Uber’s advertising proposition has the potential to land global brands, with NBCUniversal, Heineken, and United Artists Releasing already on board.
But the plans have not been welcomed by everyone and, despite claims advertising could help reduce fares, there are concerns about privacy, especially tracking the physical location of passengers.
The move comes as the company launched Uber Journey Ads which will include digital advertising boards which can be fitted to the roof of taxis.
As part of a wider programme, passengers will also receive targeted adverts to their phones from the start of their Uber booking and throughout their journey, in the same way Uber Eats advertises restaurants to customers looking for deliveries.
While the move will generate revenue streams for Uber, critics of the tablet trials see it as the company ‘annoying riders’, as reported by The Verge.
And Forbes says that Uber’s unique selling point – convenience – has been diluted by rising prices and is now making use of personal data to target customers who simply want to get from A to B, rather than being the benefit they are to an Uber Eats customer who wants to order food but doesn’t necessarily know what they want. In the case of Uber taxis, riders know exactly where they are going from and to, and Forbes questions the benefits of customers over the benefits to Uber and advertisers.
Despite some negative reaction, Uber says the pilot has been a huge success and could make rides cheaper, although Forbes points out that the company won’t put a figure on this.
Dr Mark Grether, general manager for Uber’s advertising division, said: “We have a global audience of valuable, purchase-minded consumers who, as part of our core business, tell us where they want to go and what they want to get.
“While these consumers are making purchase decisions and waiting for their destination or delivery, we can engage them with messages from brands that are relevant to their purchase journeys. And with 1.87 billion trips last quarter, that means we can connect advertisers to consumers on average five times per month across rides and delivery.
“Through our advertising division, we can help leading brands grow their relationships with consumers by connecting them at a moment when a customer is uniquely attentive. By tapping into our mobility media network, our pilot campaigns have surpassed expectations in terms of brand lift, engagement, and other campaign goals. We’re eager to continue working with our partners to identify best-in-class offerings – such as in-car tablet advertising – that will ensure they’re engaging with captive and engaged audiences.”
With 122 million active monthly users, Uber is in a position where advertisers are willing to pay good money to reach the ride-hailing company’s captive audience. The way it uses riders’ data will be closely scrutinised to ensure they are not being exploited or put at risk.
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