Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Hacking Taxis

Hacking Taxi Cab Billboards.

The Sizzle: What’s Up In Digital Marketing and Advertising

“A new technology developed by Vert, a small company based in Somerville, Mass., transforms ads on top of taxicabs into real-time, animated electronic billboards. Vert’s software, first tested in the Boston area, lets advertising messages change according to ZIP codes, neighborhoods, even city blocks, enabling marketers to target audiences in a way never before possible with outdoor transit advertising.

With Vert, a Webserver, built into taxi-top screens, communicates with a global positioning system. The GPS determines the taxi’s location. In turn, a wireless modem, which keeps in touch with Vert’s central server, delivers the relevant ads for a particular area. So, a cab passing through a city’s financial district can display stock quotes. Another traveling in a Latino neighborhood can relay ad messages in Spanish. Or a taxi at an airport can beam temperatures of major cities to travelers. The messages appear in color on the taxi screens-10 times brighter than televisions-in a format similar to Web banner ads….

… By year’s end, roughly 200 Vert-enabled cabs will be deployed in Boston and in New York….” [Business 2.0, via Andy Rhinehart]

Sounds like something out of Minority Report (how long before they’re talking directly to you). It’s definite eye candy for pedestrians, but won’t it be distracting for other drivers? As Andy says, “some heavy information shifting” going on here in terms of moving targeted advertising to where people are. [The Shifted Librarian]

Whoa! I saw one of these in New York last month – it was “advertising” ESPN by showing that night’s baseball scores. It was seriously cool – but by the next block I was already thinking about hacking it. How would you do it? What was it using to determine the messages. Thanks to Business 2.0, now we know. And I guarantee you there’ll be reports by year-end about Vert-enabled cabs running around with digital grafitti in lieu of the actual advertisers’ message.

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