Uber is launching a new business unit that will place thousands of digital advertisements on top of its ride-hailing vehicles, according to a new report from AdWeek. The unit, called “Uber OOH Powered by Adomni,” will place ads on vehicles in Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix by April 1. And while we’re pretty sure this isn’t an April Fool’s joke, the real gag is that it took Uber this long to launch real-world advertising in the first place.
During the pilot period, drivers for Uber and Uber Eats will get $300 to install the ad device on their vehicle and $100 for every week they spend driving with the display for more than 20 hours, according to AdWeek. The ad screens will display both eight-second static images and videos. Some cars in the three trial markets for Uber’s new ads are already equipped with digital displays, according to AdWeek, and they’re currently playing public service announcements as other vehicles get on-boarded.
Uber OOH, an acronym for the category of “out of home” advertising, is looking to capitalize on a trend that was already starting to take off, but cutting Uber out of the profits. Firefly, a startup based in San Francisco, began allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to make more money by placing ads on top of their cars in 2018. Firefly now operates in five cities. Uber’s new business unit will allow it to get in on the trend — and the money to be made there.
Uber, which went public in May of 2019, has struggled to become a profitable enterprise. The company undercut traditional taxi services by harnessing a low-paid workforce, but it’s never turned a profit, and it lost $5 billion in a single quarter in 2018. In fact, Uber likely loses money on every single Uber Eats order and recently laid off at least 350 people. In an environment where every dollar counts, a new revenue stream like the one presented by on-vehicle advertising could play an important role.
Adomni already places ads on traditional taxis across the country, and published a video to YouTube show what the ads will look like once they’re installed on Uber vehicles. Advertisers can buy ads online based on an available inventory of cars, and data is sent to the digital displays through the internet.
“After exploring this idea for over a year now, we realized that the timing is perfect to launch this new ad network and we couldn’t ask for a better partner than Adomni,” Brett Baker, who’s heading up the Uber initiative, said in an emailed statement. “Their expertise with mobile vehicle digital out-of-home networks and programmatic ad sales is compelling.”
What’s old is new again, it would seem. The jitneys of the 1910s invented the first non-licensed taxis in cities like Los Angeles, Kansas City, and New York. Uber just did the same a century later with an app. Car toppers, those ads that we’ve seen on top of taxis since at least the 1990s, aren’t exactly new. But Uber isn’t going to sit back and let them take over without getting its cut.