Digital Advertisers Look to Connected Cars to Push Industry Forward

This post is the latest in our “Driving Local” series. It’s our editorial focus for the month of August, including topics like autonomous vehicles and the car as the ultimate “local” mobile device. See the rest of the series here

Image above courtesy of Firefly.


Is the connected car market driving innovation in digital advertising, or is pressure from advertisers pushing automakers to commit more deeply to building connected cars? The answer might depend on whom you ask.

With connected cars well on their way to becoming the standard in the U.S. market, advertisers are flexing their influence and pushing for automakers to build more cars with data systems that are designed for integration. They’re also developing more integrated out-of-home advertising and marketing strategies that rely on location and other data channels accessible through connected vehicle systems.

The connected car market is seeing explosive growth right now. According to the most recent data, worldwide shipments of connected vehicles are expected to reach 51 million units in 2019, which is an increase of 45% over the year prior. By 2023, worldwide shipments of connected cars are expected to reach 76 million units.

What’s considered a connected car varies from company to company. As a general rule, a connected vehicle is typically defined as a “light-duty vehicle or truck containing a dedicated cellular network, wireless wide area connection that interfaces with the vehicle data.” The majority of new vehicles are now shipped with embedded, factory-installed connected systems. But older systems can be connected, too, typically with self-contained aftermarket devices or software that’s installed into the vehicle’s OBDII port.

With a connected system in place, automakers—and certain outside firms—can access data, download software, and communicate with IoT devices. Connected car technology also makes it possible for automakers to offer WiFi for vehicle passengers.

As location technology improves, and as people consume even more media in their vehicles, the connected car market is pushing OOH advertising forward. Industry veterans like Kym Frank see the creative messaging used by advertisers evolving alongside automotive design. As president of Geopath, a not-for-profit organization that independently audits and reports OOH advertising ratings throughout the United States, Frank has watched firsthand as advertisers have started shifting their strategies to take more advantage of vehicle location data. With large display screens being placed inside more and more cars, advertisers have opportunities to reach drivers that just weren’t possible a decade ago.

“The ability for vehicles to ‘communicate’ with OOH advertising will open up limitless possibilities for the industry to target advertising and even create a holistic experience that combines both in-car and OOH advertising as people are traveling,” Frank says.

Dynamic billboards have emerged as an alternative to static billboards, fueled by real-time connection with vehicle data. By some estimates, up to 50% of billboard purchases in the U.S. are now digital.

Frank sees an additional opportunity for cars to connect with OOH advertising.

“[This] gives advertisers the ability to surround consumers with messaging for their brands, but also, the ability to make OOH campaigns even smarter,” she says.

One brand that’s been an innovator in the space is McDonald’s. The global fast food giant recently geofenced hundreds of billboards and served a complementary ad on the Waze app to anyone who entered a certain geofence, giving users the option to drive to a nearby McDonald’s. According to reports, 8,400 people clicked to navigate to a McDonald’s.

Waze’s decision to integrate with CarPlay, Apple’s in-car platform, last year made the company an important player for advertisers that want to utilize connected car data in their campaigns. In an interview with Street Fight, Waze Ads’ managing director Suzie Reider said marketing through connected cars with navigation data is different from pure location data, providing brands with a unique opportunity to drive people into real-world stores. Using navigation data, brands are actually able to move people to destinations, rather than just target them once they’ve arrived.

“The last few decades in digital marketing have been very much about online conversions and acquiring new customers online and selling mattresses and suitcases and so on online,” Reider said. “Waze’s value proposition is relevant in a world where retailers, QSRs. Gas Stations and convenience stores are so motivated to attract foot traffic and people. Destination-based marketing is about the physical world and turning a location into a destination, thus driving customers into stores.”

Another recent development in the space is the acquisition of Thinknear, the advertising division of the connected car platform Telenav, by the digital advertising firm inMarket. Following the transaction, Telenav is now working with inMarket to offer unique in-car advertising to consumers via automotive manufacturers. The companies say that the combination of Telenav’s automotive expertise and inMarket’s advertising delivery technology will enable location-specific offers to be delivered to drivers in the parking lots of virtually all major U.S. retailers.

Pulling Insights from Connected Cars

Waze is making headway in the space by giving brands a way to capitalize on consumers’ navigation data, but other firms are going deeper to create value from the data generated by connected cars.

The automotive data services platform Otonomo has made a name for itself by bringing together disparate connected car data. Among the platform’s many use cases is media measurement. With consumers constantly exposed to media while driving, Otonomo is providing a way for advertisers to create measurements and analytics that take into account trips and location data, as well as events within the vehicle, like audio system usage.

“As our vehicles become more connected, we see a rising opportunity to unlock more consumer services,” says Ben Volkow, Otonomo’s chief executive officer and founder.

Like most other third-party players in the connected vehicle space, Otonomo is walking a fine line with privacy. The company has added features to its platform like the Consent Management Hub and an Anonymization Engine aimed at safeguarding driver data and allowing partners to remain compliant with the latest privacy regulations, like GDPR.

As the industry continues to evolve, Geopath’s Kym Frank predicts that two-way communication between cars and advertisers will become even more commonplace and OOH strategies that involve connected vehicle data will be the norm among major brand advertisers.

“The car itself can communicate with digital displays to trigger optimal creative, and the billboard can communicate with the dash to trigger in-app ads,” Frank says. “We are at the very beginning of seeing what is possible and measuring those impacts.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

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