mobilads is a data-enabled rideshare advertising platform that utilizes wrapped Uber/Lyft fleets as rolling billboards in the NYC area. They’re looking to bring data and transparency to the OOH industry. mobilads was founded by two former bankers, Craig Cook and Niels Sommerfeld.
How did the idea for this concept come into fruition?
I started the company in February 2017 and Niels joined a few months later – the two of us have been working on it together ever since. One day on the way to work, I was looking at a taxi ad through the window of my Uber and thought, “Companies are paying a ton of money to advertise on taxis, why aren’t they paying to advertise on Ubers?”. A few months later I came to Niels with the idea of helping me build this company, and he agreed, “Why is no one doing this?“. As someone who had been involved in media planning at an early-stage consumer startup Niels immediately saw the value in it.
If you look at the stats, you’ll find that there are more than 80,000 rideshare vehicles that complete more than 17 million trips a month just in New York City. That’s more than five times the 13,500 medallion taxis on the streets and twice the number medallion trips. Meanwhile, ridership on subways and buses has declined over the last two years, which is directly tied to the increase in rideshare use. When you think about those staggering numbers, you realize the massive opportunity there is to utilize this empty real estate of, what we like to call, “rolling stock media”.
It became evident to us that not only was this an opportunity to access 17 million chances of exposure for our advertisements, but that we could also to give drivers the option to make some easy income on top of their rideshare earnings. Rideshare drivers are getting paid less than ever before and a lot of them live paycheck to paycheck. After speaking to hundreds of Uber drivers to see if they would be interested, 9 out of 10 of them were on board to participate. It was never a question of driver demand – recruiting advertisers is what has proved to be more challenging.
What exactly does mobilads provide?
Our bread and butter is brand awareness and powerful data analytics. mobilads is the more transparent and better-looking version of taxi-top advertisements. Think of us as “taxi-tops 2.0”. Instead of slapping an ad on the top of a taxi, we’re wrapping the cars to make it a “branded” vehicle experience.
It’s also the most cost-effective OOH option in the industry with CPM’s ranging between $1 – $3. As foot traffic increases above-ground each year, mobilads provides enormous impressions counts given the nature of the rideshare business in the NYC area – full-time drivers near population-dense areas at all times of the day.
Several clients and agencies we’ve spoken to are super excited about our data capabilities. We pair real-time GPS location data with mobile tracking technology to segment exactly which types of audiences are exposed to your ad – psychographics, demographics, purchasing behavior, and other brand-relevant categorizations. We also provide device ID’s that allow you to retarget these same audiences exposed to your ads online and deliver cross-device messaging.
The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission lost an attempt to ban advertising in rideshare vehicles. Tell us a little bit about that.
Back in 2015, a company called Vugo sued New York City after the Taxi and Limousine Commission banned all vehicles that were not medallion taxis from advertising. Rideshare vehicles, which had recently been classified as For-Hire-Vehicles (FHV’s), were not allowed. Vugo argued that if you’re going to classify the vehicles the same, and require the same license, you can’t treat them differently. The judge agreed, the TLC was unable to justify its regulations, and Vugo won the lawsuit on February 2018 on first amendment (commercial speech) grounds. So here we are – although the TLC is appealing the lawsuit, the laws are now deemed unconstitutional, and unenforceable. It’s tough to reverse a decision that was made on 1st amendment grounds. This opened up the market for companies like ourselves to start our advertising efforts, legally.
Where do you see OOH trends going today?
We’re seeing huge ROI from venture-backed consumer-tech companies that are investing in traditional outdoor advertising to complement their digital marketing efforts – Hims, Casper, Brooklinen, Thinx, etc. The real-world presence adds legitimacy that would otherwise only be encountered online, and smartphones have fundamentally impacted how people interact with the advertising they consume in the physical world. After all, 70% of our waking hours are spent outside the home and 68% of consumer mobile use is done on the go. As data-tracking and attribution become more prevalent, marketers will be focusing on greater targeting and measurement precision to increase the likelihood of provoking action, as well as getting eyeballs, and ultimately conversions… and when you combine quality data, creative relevance, and frequency you have yourself a killer outdoor marketing strategy. AI, digital signage, and even self-driving cars are just a few of the exciting innovations that will undoubtedly contribute to a smarter OOH marketplace.
What’s your vision of the company?
We want mobilads to be the go-to for transit in NYC, before expanding to all other major cities across the US and globally. Our goal is to become a data powerhouse that is easy to use, puts money into the driver’s pockets, and provides valuable metrics of each ads effectiveness to foster the growth of our clients. We currently have a fleet of 7,000+ vehicles (and growing) in our inventory, and plan on having 25,000 by the end of 2021. Further down the road, we envision a world where every all ridesharing and self-driving vehicles will display our ads that are relevant to each and every consumer.