As modern consumers, we’ve come to accept that certain spaces will never be ad-free. It’s a price we (somewhat) willingly pay for access to entertainment, news, and information.
Want to scroll through social media to pass the time? Ads. Need to look up the closest dry cleaner in your area? Ads. Driving to work in your fancy new car…. Ads?
The last example may not have resonated as much as the first two, but give it a year or two and that will all change. According to Accenture, “cars no longer just get us from point A to B” — they’re evolving into something more than a means of transportation.
“The time is right to upscale ambitions for what the future in-car experience can and should be”, continues Accenture — going as far as to say cars will become “experience platforms”. Add in the fact that Gartner has predicted that cars will represent 53% of the 5G internet of things (IoT) by 2023, and you’ll understand why many see cars as potential retail units of the future.
So, what is in-car marketing, how might it evolve, and what are some ways that brands can tap into it in coming years? Let’s take a look.
What Is In-Car Marketing?
In-car marketing is any form of advertisement that can be found within a car — ranging from pop-up ads on in-car displays to sponsored suggestions on digital maps to radio ads.
Some methods of in-car marketing are newer than others and dependent on emerging technology — which is why this concept has been catching brands' eyes as of late.
So-called “connected cars” offer embedded modules that tap into 5G, allowing consumers to access the internet via their in-car display. From looking up directions to streaming music to making purchases via apps — in-car marketing, or in-car commerce, provides new ways for brands to creatively connect with consumers.
But is in-car marketing as groundbreaking as it sounds?
Is In-Car Marketing A New Concept?
Well… yes and no.
In-car marketing and advertising isn’t a totally new concept. On a very basic level, radio ads have counted as a form of in-car marketing for decades. Additionally, companies exist that have sold ad space in taxis and ride-shares via in-car displays for years.
Take Display Science, a brand that’s been selling ad space via in-car displays since 2016. Established to “disrupt” traditional OOH advertising, Display Science’s ads are shown on in-car displays and placed in the back seats of taxis and rideshares as a form of digital marketing.
Though not every passenger may love sitting face to face with an ad-filled screen for the duration of their trip, they’re not the ones driving and they don’t have to look at it — so this doesn’t present any real safety or ethical issues.
What is newer is the ability for brands to advertise directly to car owners via emerging technologies — for example, the “massive screens that new cars are being equipped with (such as the 31-inch screen announced by BMW), app ecosystems, virtual reality (VR) entertainment platforms similar to the Audi and Disney partnership, digital radios and voice technology.”
While it may not be totally new, in-car marketing is evolving and the options are increasing — meaning cars will become more attractive to brands as “experience platforms” in 2022 and beyond.
However, just because a technology exists doesn’t mean you need to jump on the bandwagon. Before deciding whether or not new forms of in-car marketing are up your alley, let’s consider any ethical dilemmas they may present.
Does In-Car Marketing Present Any Ethical Dilemmas?
Of course, one of the biggest issues surrounding in-car marketing is safety. Many people wonder — “Will seeing static or video ads on my in-car display distract me or other drivers from safely operating a vehicle?”
Telenav, an in-car advertising proponent and provider of connected car and location-based services, says definitely not. According to their website, safety was a top priority when they created their In-Car Advertising Platform, stating:
“Drivers will never see an ad while their vehicles are in motion. Ads automatically disappear whenever the car is moving or when users interact with other in-dash functions. For example, when a driver starts her vehicle, a relevant ad will appear on her dashboard. The moment the driver shifts into reverse to back out the driveway, the ad automatically disappears.”
So, according to Telenav, in-car advertisements will be perfectly safe. And while we’d love to believe that, all technology has the potential to malfunction — meaning no in-car advertising provider could say with 100% certainty that their ads would never pop up at an inopportune time and distract a driver.
Though the chances are low, it is still something for brands to consider when deciding whether or not to try out in-car advertising.
Another potential ethical dilemma centers around what some consumers may see as being coerced into watching advertisements in order to use their car’s features. The way Telenav has set up their in-car ads, watching ads allows consumers to access “valued-added services”, like GPS navigation, remote access, emergency assist, and enhanced security.
Pulling data from a 2016 McKinsey Report, Telenav states that “67% of those surveyed prefer free in-car services through targeted ads while only 33% opted to pay for a subscription for the same connected car service.”
Based on this survey, it would seem that consumers overwhelmingly side with the “show me ads for free services” option. But, keep in mind that this survey is now over eight years old and only had a sample size of 593. It also only included respondents from the US, Germany, and China — which isn’t representative of the entire world’s population.
There’s a chance that a more recent survey with a much larger sample size might produce different results — so we can’t say for certain that 67% of all consumers would be happy to have in-car advertising in exchange for in-car services.
Therein lies the potential ethical dilemma — do consumers really think viewing ads in exchange for access to important car services like emergency assistance is fair in 2022? Only time (and more research) will tell.
How Can Brands Take Advantage of In-Car Marketing?
As cars become more automated and technologically advanced, it’s only natural that there will be more opportunities for brands to capitalize on drivers’ attention. That’s where in-car commerce fits in.
According to recent research, in-car payments represent “a potential $212 billion business opportunity” for brands to take advantage of. For some [types of brands, partnerships with car brands to support in-car payments just make sense.
Consider the 2017 collaboration between Jaguar and Shell, which allowed drivers to download a new Shell app on their Jaguar’s in-car display and pay for gas via the cashless app — pretty neat.
Furthermore, according to PYMNTS & Visa’s Digital Drive Report, 66% of “commuters who make mobile order-ahead purchases today would do so more often if in-vehicle commerce was available in their vehicles” and 82% “of millennials would shop more during their commute if voice-activated technology was available.”
Clearly, consumers are interested in the concept of in-car commerce. And if your target audience includes consumers who drive cars, then perhaps it’s time to consider how your brand can take advantage of current and upcoming in-car commerce features.
1. Create An In-Car App With Voice Assist Technology
One of the easiest ways to take advantage of in-car commerce going forward will be to hop on the app bandwagon.
By creating a user-friendly in-car app where consumers can browse your products/services and make voice-assisted orders, you can capture an entirely new stream of revenue.
Of course, this option will work better for some brands than others. Think ordering a Starbucks on your daily commute or picking up groceries on your way home — it’s more conducive to some categories than others.
However, as technology advances, in-car apps will become relevant for a wider array of brand categories. According to the above-mentioned Digital Drive Report, 83.2% of all commuters would engage in-car commerce.
Additionally, if cars drove themselves, 30% would shop online and 28% would play games — meaning brands in both eCommerce and gaming industries would benefit big-time.
2. Sponsor In-Car Services
Do you like the idea of your brand name being associated with an important in-car service, but are wary of forcing consumers to watch your ads to access said service? Then you could consider sponsoring in-car services.
For example, let’s say you’re the brand manager of an insurance company, called Resurance, and you want to get in at the ground level of in-car marketing. However, you’re not comfortable with the standard option of showing users your ads to access a service.
So, why not sponsor in-car emergency assistance? Aka “Resurance Emergency Assistance”. With this option, you’re allowing consumers to access this vital service at no cost to them — but also reminding them of your brand name every time they see the service name or hear it spoken.
With this setup, you’d increase brand awareness and position your brand as one that cares about consumers’ welfare first and foremost — therefore endearing yourself to an important target audience.
3. Launch A Partnership With An Automotive Brand
Like Jaguar and Shell, there are plenty of opportunities for brands from almost any industry to team up with automotive brands to form exclusive partnerships.
Consider Audi and Disney. In 2018, they started hinting at a partnership in the works — one that would include VR headsets in the backseat. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2019, they revealed more details about their in-car content partnership.
According to Insider, the brands are “collaborating on a new, in-car virtual reality (VR) experience for ride-hailing passengers via a new consortium between themselves, entertainment giant Marvel, and Holoride, a VR startup.” The collab would feature:
“a system that allows a passenger to don a standalone VR headset and experience a journey through outer space in a ship that mimics the movements of the vehicle. For instance, when the demo car stopped, so did the spaceship.”
While this is an early-stage experience, for partners Audi and Disney, “this early demo of their VR offering is just an early milestone in the years-long journey to reimagine the inside of the car.”
So, if you feel there’s an opportunity for your brand to forge a mutually beneficial partnership with an automotive brand that would tap into the future of in-car commerce, give it some real thought.
As technology advances, so will the opportunities for brands to make their mark using in-car marketing and commerce. While there are still some potential ethical issues to navigate, brands that take a thoughtful, conscientious approach to the opportunity could reap the rewards.
And if you’re interested in how your target audience feels about in-car marketing — if they’d use it, if they believe it fits your brand, and more — then consider using brand monitoring software to keep a finger on the pulse of their thoughts and feelings.