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Ben Milne 

How will driverless cars affect roadside advertising?

How will driverless cars affect roadside advertising?

As UK towns begin the first trials of driverless cars, Posterscope's Ben Milne looks at the opportunities for out-of-home.

Amid the many technologies being unveiled at CES this year has been a renewed focus on the automotive industry. BMW, Mercedes and Audi all unveiled a vision of their driverless cars at the show, and one driverless Audi even made a 550 mile drive from San Fransisco to the CES exhibition centre in Las Vegas.

Closer to home, four UK towns will become the first to trial driverless cars in the country. The streets of Bristol, Greenwich, Milton Keynes and Coventry are set to host a number of the vehicles as the government assesses their suitability for UK roads.

Some of the factors being examined include whether the vehicles will help reduce congestion and make roads safer, while also assessing the public's reaction to the new technology. The tests, starting in January and lasting for 18 to 36 months, will also analyse the legal and insurance implications of driverless cars.

Alarmists could easily seize the opportunity to declare this the beginning of the end for roadside OOH sites."

However, a question the trials raise for the advertising industry is what impact driverless cars will have on roadside OOH. Alarmists could easily seize the opportunity to declare this the beginning of the end for roadside OOH sites. After all, if no one's driving the car, who's looking at the road and the adverts around it?

In reality though, driverless cars will open up a huge number of opportunities for the roadside OOH industry. The quantity of data these automated vehicles will collect is likely to have a considerable impact on advertisers' ability to target campaigns to the cars’ passengers.

Currently, roadside campaigns have to balance personalisation with safety to ensure drivers are not distracted from the road. A nation of passengers being chauffeured to their destinations by driverless cars, however, is an exciting proposition for advertisers. They'll be able to target messaging far more accurately, developing more personalised and potentially interactive campaigns which hold people's attention for longer.

Driverless cars also open up a whole new entertainment environment for broadcasters, entertainment companies like Netflix and media giants like Google. These companies could potentially subsidise the cost of the cars if they're able to be a built-in part of the environment. Google's already been looking at how it can monetise free taxi rides in driverless cars - serving ads in automated taxis to passengers during their ride rather than charging a fare.

Inevitably, passengers will increasingly browse the internet, shop online and catch up on their favourite television shows on their mobiles and tablets."

As we come to better understand the new consumption behaviours driverless cars will breed, the roadside OOH industry will be able to reach consumers even more effectively. If they do become the norm, we'll need to redefine what makes a 'good' roadside site beyond traditional high value locations to entirely new sites designed to capture the attention of a new generation of window gazers.

Roundabouts, for example, demand a lot of attention from drivers and therefore do not always provide a natural home for targeted roadside campaigns unless a lot of queuing or traffic lights are involved. In a driverless car however, passengers can sit back, relax and take in OOH campaigns as they pass by.

Inevitably, passengers will increasingly browse the internet, shop online and catch up on their favourite television shows on their mobiles and tablets. This will also open up greater opportunities for multichannel advertising.

iBeacon technology within billboards could trigger targeted push notifications to mobile phones as passengers pass a roadside OOH advert. Such technological advances would make it much easier to track the success of both specific campaigns and sites, while making it simpler than ever for people to respond to a call to action.

However, despite more people looking at their screens, there will still be many who simply want to gaze out of the window as they are driven around. Natural human curiosity to know where they are and what's out there will keep passengers looking at the outside world and the various OOH sites it has to offer.

As long as the industry keeps being creative about its planning and turning out imaginative and thought-provoking campaigns, the roadside OOH industry isn't going anywhere.

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