VeriFone Media is revamping the Taxi TV systems it operates in 6,800 New York City cabs to offer a second channel, interactive tickers, in-cab purchases and printable coupons.
When Ad Age went for a ride to check out the changes from a rider's perspective, the format proved familiar -- snippets of light news and entertainment interspersed with frequent ads, with headlines on scrolling tickers -- but the layout was cleaner and the package was more engaging. Where Taxi TV had sometimes struck riders as imposing and over-promotional before, the element of channel choice and the more navigable interface help it seem a little more like a half-decent iPad app. The new "NYC Channel" includes New York-centric programming such as restaurant profiles and PSA's about city services, provided by the city's NYC Media.
For advertisers, however, the updates offering in-cab commerce, coupon printing and user-specific targeting could prove much more profound. VeriFone can now track exactly what customers do on-screen. Coupled with Taxi TV's existing capabilities -- day-parting and geotargeting -- the changes present some particularly interesting opportunities. A sporting-goods retailer could choose to target only customers on the Upper West Side who show interest in the ESPN ticker. Groupon might offer engaged riders nearby deals for their next meal, allowing them to print a voucher on-the-go.
The system's new capabilities echo the sorts of things that online and mobile platforms can do, but Taxi TV may run into the same problem that its forerunners have: getting advertisers to use all the tools now on offer. Taxi TV offers a big, captive audience every day, and now all the interactive capabilities an advertiser could really want. It's just not clear whether or when in-cab purchases will become significant enough to justify the time and investment they require from marketers.
About one in five Taxi TV advertisers were using the targeting that was possible before the changes, according to Chris Polos, VP-global media sales at VeriFone Media. Even fewer were building interactive mini-sites. And no clients have signed up yet for the new functions just yet.
Interscope Records, which currently buys VeriFone's relatively traditional video and banner spots on Taxi TV, is very interested in the new capabilities, said Dave Anderson, marketing director at Interscope. Buying MP3's in a cab? It could happen. "The more ways of distribution we have, the better," he said.
But are people ready to shop on the ride home? "I don't know if we're there yet," Mr. Anderson acknowledged. "But I think as this technology progresses, we're getting closer and closer."
VeriFone, an electronic payments company, introduced Taxi TV in 2006 in response to a request for proposals from New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission. The company has since expanded into major markets through the country, as well as the United Kingdom, acquiring Clear Channel's taxi media business, Taxitronic, and U.K.-based Taxi Media in the process. WABC and WNBC act as partners in programming and advertising sales for Taxi TV. NYC Media, its new programming partner, is not taking a cut of ad revenue.