Home News How autonomous vehicles, driverless cities and more E-Commerce will affect advertising

How autonomous vehicles, driverless cities and more E-Commerce will affect advertising

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At a conference curated and hosted by the AIA (American Institute of Architects) in New York City on December 1st, the best minds on the subject of Anticipating Driverless Cities shared their insights.  As a marketer, implications emerged for how outdoor advertising might be delivered, and mobile advertising could be impacted.  What follows are possibilities I can envision or have already seen.  Driverless cities and increased e-commerce will include more delivery trucks, pedestrian walkways, bicycles, amphibious planes, helicopter taxis, drones, more time for mobile usage in autos, and potentially more time socializing in more shared, carpool vehicles.


Excited to be the Official Delivery Partner of Taylor Swift’s new album! Look for #TaylorSwiftDelivery trucks: https://t.co/1hg8OX1xWu pic.twitter.com/ThNrhIEet7

— UPS (@UPS) August 25, 2017

  • As e-commerce continues to increase, UPS and FedEx trucks will become even more ubiquitous. To date, the use of delivery trucks for marketing purposes has been limited, but that could change, witness the very clever co-promotion with UPS for Taylor Swift’s latest album, Reputation.  People who snapped and shared #TaylorSwiftDelivery had the chance to win a flyaway “package” to one of Taylor’s concerts.
  • Some day, all those delivery trucks will be at least partially replaced by drones, and there is massive underutilized ad space in the form of boring brown packages that could be branded. A few firms like Soap.com and Zappos.com intelligently use their shipping boxes to colorfully stand out amidst a sea of brown and register their brands logos or taglines.  There’s tremendous, low cost ad impact opportunity from more telegraphic shipping boxes.
Michelle Greenwald
  • New means of bike sharing that allow bikes and even motorcycles to be digitally unlocked virtually anywhere, have become wildly popular in China and other parts of the world, as in Amsterdam, above. While bicycle docking systems in the US have taken on a limited number of advertisers at any one time, on the docking stations, like Citi Bike does, or on bicycle baskets like Austin Texas’s B-cycle does, the new, scattered, digital unlock systems might allow for even more advertising on the bikes themselves.
Ray Ban
  • In areas like Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which borders on Williamsburg, lots of hip key influencers walk among clubs and stores. What I call “branded art”, painted wall ads with interesting visual content than is pervasive and impactful as it breaks away from typical ad clutter.  Greenpoint is becoming a branded art/ad/graffiti hotbed.  We can expect to see a convergence of street art and 2 and 3-dimensional and interactive branded ads.
Medellin Colombia Slum Metrocable
  • Medellin, Colombia, which for years had one of the highest murder rates in the world, has transformed itself through exceptional innovation, winning the Most Innovative City in the World award in 2013. Medellin implemented a gondola/cable car transportation system and escalators that brings people from the lower valley into the poorer favelas in the hills.  Cable cars have been considered as a potential means of public transportation in other cities, including Williamsburg, Brooklyn to alleviate difficulties anticipated once the popular L Subway line undergoes renovation.  With cable cars, we can expect to see ads inside and on the outside of the cabins and on the poles that support the cables along the way.  Outdoor escalators, which are also in Hong Kong’s Central District, provide opportunities for ads to a captive audience with little ad clutter for the duration of the ride.
Creative Commons CC0
  • India desperately needs more airports, but constructing new ones all over the country will involve huge infrastructure investment. The Indian airline, SpiceJet, is working with Japanese amphibious plane manufacturer Setouchi to purchase planes that can land on water in many parts of India.  We can expect to see ads inside the planes and near new water “airports”  if seaplanes as commercial transportation “takes off”.


New York City
  • Companies like Uber and Cities like Dubai are at the forefront of implementing helicopter taxis that take off and land vertically. Initially they are expected to be piloted, but ultimately autonomous.  No doubt there will be advertising on board, perhaps on video screens like on New York City taxis.  We may even see in-flight magazines.
  • For those vehicles still allowed to drive in cities, there could be financial incentives for ride-sharing, or driving with multiple occupants may be the only permissible way to drive. In that case, services or apps can be anticipated that can match passengers by interest, making the rides more social and conversation more likely.  The result could be less time spent on mobile devices.
  • For drivers/passengers of autonomous vehicles, the implication will be more time for mobile devices in transit, hence more even more mobile advertising opportunities.

These changes in consumer behaviors and new places to advertise as a result of leaps in technology and the further crowding of cities, are coming sooner than we realize.  In some cases, they are already here, providing new business opportunities for existing firms and start-ups.

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