Press for screens new york times
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Press for screens new york times
ARTICLE IN NEW YORK TIMES
Take a taxi through the East Village this week, and there is a good chance that a commercial for the
Blue Man Group — playing nearby on Astor Place — will pop up on the miniature television facing
the back seat.
GPS data is used to determine when and where this ad is shown in taxis.
It would not be a coincidence: the theater troupe is one of the advertisers using the GPS devices in
cabs to pinpoint when and where its commercials should play.
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.
The advantages for marketers are clear: captive viewers, affluent consumers and 13,000 locations
across New York City — although it may be hard to find one outside Manhattan.
Still, many passengers profess to hate the screens, deeming them squawking irritants. But the
impulse to hit the off button may be a myth: the televisions stay on 85 percent of the time that cabs
have passengers inside, according to data that the screens’ operators have provided to the Taxi and
Such statistics have helped persuade skeptical businesses to embrace a medium that got its start in
2007, when New York became the first major city to require that cabs have televisions.
“When they first approached me, I said, ‘You have got to be kidding me,’ ” said Joe Barron, the
owner of Definitions, a high‐end Manhattan fitness chain that has advertised in taxis since last
winter. Mr. Barron assumed that passengers would simply shut off the screens or ignore them, until
he ran a test campaign and found his phone ringing with clients.
He has renewed his account six times since then, he said, and he is prepared to spend half a million
es. dollars next year on taxi commercials, at the expense of advertising on the Internet or in magazin
“Even if they are not watching the entire ad, they see our name up there,” Mr. Barron said. “They
see our brand. They know we’re out there.”
Agencies are looking to expand taxi advertising into markets like Boston, Chicago and Miami.
In New York, taxi passengers are shown a mix of news, weather and light cultural fare on a single
channel provided by either WABC or WNBC. Next year, the city plans to add a second channel of
government‐produced programming, including shows like “$9.99” and “NYC4Free,” which point
viewers to inexpensive goings‐on in the city.
The second channel is intended to provide passengers with a greater range of entertainment
options, city officials said. “With two channels, there’s a better chance for content you’re happy
with,” said David S. Yassky, the taxi and limousine commissioner.
But the new channel will not add to the city’s coffers: New York receives none of the advertising
revenue from taxicabs. The profits are split between the sales agency and the channels that provide
t. programming. In some cases, cab owners receive a cut, although drivers almost invariably do no
It remains difficult to track sales of taxi‐screen advertising. The agencies that oversee the sales
would not release specific revenue figures, and industry observers like the Nielsen Company do not
keep detailed statistics on the emerging field.
But VeriFone Media Solutions, which handles advertising sales for about 12,000 yellow cabs —
nearly the entire fleet — said its revenue was up 60 percent in the past year. In November, the
company had 105 active campaigns, compared with 67 a year ago. About two‐thirds of its sales are
from national brands, with a heavy concentration in financial services, fashion and retail
companies, and tie‐ins to films and television shows.
“Like anything, people had to get used to it,” said Chris Polos, the company’s vice president of sales
To lure advertisers, agencies promote taxis as a closed, uncluttered environment that allows for
direct engagement with an audience.
“Taxi riders are young, educated and upscale,” reads a promotional pamphlet sent to potential
clients by WABC, which provides programming for about half of the city’s taxicabs.
The pamphlet claims that taxi passengers skew slightly female and that nearly half earn more than
$100,000 a year. A 30‐second advertisement running in half of the city’s taxi fleet could be seen
more than 200,000 times a day — at a weekly cost of about $20,000.
The city is finalizing a two‐year contract extension with Creative Mobile Technologies and VeriFone
Systems, the vendors that install and operate the screens, and the revenue arrangement is not
expected to change. (VeriFone Systems is the corporate parent of VeriFone Media Solutions.)
Taxicab owners must pay fees to the vendors in exchange for providing the screens, which also
allow passengers to pay by credit card. Since owners must enter into individual contracts with the
vendors, some have arranged for a cut of the advertising revenue, although this is not common
across the industry.
Mr. Yassky, the taxi commissioner, said the televisions improved the quality of the taxi experience
for passengers. There have been other benefits, too: the ability to pay by credit card, for example,
has been credited with a rise in ridership despite the recession.
Mr. Yassky said that in lieu of demanding advertising revenue, the city hoped that the additional
income for vendors might encourage them to lower the fees they charge to cab owners, which could
in turn reduce the pressure to increase fares.
“I don’t think advertising is so much an opportunity for city revenue,” he said, “so much as an
opportunity to keep fares down.”
A version of this article appeared in print on December 13, 2010, on page A17 of the N.Y. Edition