I’ve been in more Ubers than I care to count and for the record, I’m neither pleased nor untroubled with my dependence on Ubers. But as one of my many Ubers wound around bends and obscure streets to get me to my destination, I noticed something peculiar from the backseat. Well, to be fair, it was right in front of me and difficult to miss although somewhat unexpected for that particular setting. Right in front of me, almost imposing, was a small screen which was held in place by the driver’s headrest.
I’ve perfected the art of blatantly ignoring anything that demands attention I’m not willing to warrant. Doomsday television ads for life insurance to the sink full of dishes that have yet to be washed. I can lull myself in many false senses of security if I will myself to do so and so I found myself a little taken aback in the back of an Uber. Taken aback by this small screen beaming artificial light in my line of sight. There were adverts for local bars, touristy adventures around the city and trailers for shows that didn’t look very promising but nonetheless a shameless suggestion for anyone looking to waste a good hour of their lives.
The possibilities of things to get up to weren’t necessarily endless but could make for a good itinerary. And all of which came from a small screen in the back of an Uber. My ETAs are generally under 20 minutes and within those 20 minutes, I’d discovered bars I probably would’ve have ventured into and things to do in a city I’ve lived in for many years. The small screen was like my window into a different corner in a world I thought I’d known so well.
The more I write about the small screen, the more it sounds like a sordid and short-lived love affair. It’s anything but however I have a point and I’m getting there, I promise. Am I only person who’s been in tune with how we’re being advertised to and how new mediums and spaces are being taken over almost, subtly? I can speak about the efficacy of these ads, but I can say that the backseat of an Uber is ‘prime real estate’. Think about it, you’re in a car, going somewhere and Uber knows a great deal about how you move about, your most frequent locations and how long you’re going to be in the car. The ETA gives you an estimate of how long it’ll take to get to your destination. There’s a lot of deductions to make from this data. The possibilities for advertising are truly endless and dare I say it, a gold mine for advertisers. This may be a bit of a stretch, but I think companies that aren’t in the advertising and media industries will soon develop arms in their traditional businesses dedicated to media and advertising. Uber could become an advertising behemoth, if they were so inclined. Uber completes over 15 million trips a day and that could easily equate to potentially millions of eyeballs and wallets for advertisers.
If Uber made use of the location data and ETAs, they could use this data to show ads that are specific to the people in the backseat. Users who use frequently travel to airports and use the Uber services in multiple cities could be shown ads that are specific to the areas they’re travelling to as well as ads for airlines that may have better deals and departure and arrival times. Additionally, if Uber knows how long passengers are going to be in the backseat and can find ways to monetise this time. People are most likely more alert when they get into the car and so from the time the ride begins, the small screen could show their most lucrative ads because people are likely to be alert, greeting the driver and settling in.
The future of digital marketing is changing. Advertisers are going to look for more effective ways to target people in their everyday lives and in ways that they can’t really avoid like using adblockers online or changing the channel.
Spaces and environments that people choose to frequent will become outlets that advertisers will start to depend on for eyeballs for their products and services. Uber making use of this data may not seem so far-fetched in the long-term, if trends and surges in experiences-based marketing are anything to go by.
And so, the next time you see a small screen in your Uber remember that it’s likely the first of many.