New Zealand will soon welcome a big new player in the out-of-home sector, with media company Taxi Impact and a range of taxi companies—including the main taxi co-operatives under the Blue Bubble brand—agreeing to start displaying advertising on their vehicles in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
For anyone who's ventured overseas, it's one of those ideas that inevitably leads to a standard question: 'Why hasn't someone done it already?' And while Tim Dove, Taxi Impact's founder and director, says it has certainly been tried here, he says all of the attempts have completely missed the mark.
"They have focused on small formats, bumper-stickers or positioned them on the boot, which gives little value to the advertiser. Therefore no-one was interested. Also, no company has given advertisers a nationwide scale that gives them the consistency and reach they need.”
Like many innovations that make it to New Zealand, Dove says the penny dropped for him a few years ago while he was living overseas.
“I was standing on a street corner in London when I saw a taxi with advertising on it. Naturally, as a Kiwi you wonder why no-one is doing that in New Zealand. The process just started from there really.”
He started looking into the idea in more detail and found the drivers in London were very supportive of the extra revenue the scheme generated and, because a single black cab was seen around 75 million times a year (check out this Britain From Above clip, which shows taxis in London at peak time), the advertisers saw it as a key part of their media mix.
So far Dove has established a network of around 2,200 taxis (both vans and cars) throughout the country and, with Omnigraphics as printing partner, can offer a mixture of exterior and interior advertising options, ranging from rear doors, rear sides, the rear half of vehicles or full wraps (and in a nice touch, each option is named after an endangered New Zealand bird or tree, with a small chunk of each taxi's fee being given to the particular charity that aims to help it).
He says the exterior advertising will bring messages to the street level and, as taxis generally inhabit the expensive media zone of the CDB and other busy areas, they're visible at what could be an important part of the consumer journey. As far as airport coverage goes, Dove says taxis carrying advertising in Wellington and Christchurch are free to wait in the rank and come and go as they please, but not so in Auckland, where they are unable to wait in the rank due to the airport's contract with another outdoor provider.
After seeing the OMANZ response to 'unsubstantiated claims' in a Mobile AdVert advertising campaign, Dove doesn't want to make any unsubstantiated claims of his own about eyeball numbers and has commissioned Perceptive to do some more robust research when the first campaigns go live. But, according to the data that is available, Taxi Impact is a fairly compelling moving media proposition: per month taxis in New Zealand travel over 1200km further than Urgent Couriers Mobile AdVert, over 2200km further than a bus and 3200km further than the SmartMove cars.
Dove says taxi campaigns can also be linked to the events the vehicles are servicing, whether it’s rugby matches, flower shows or business conventions. And while he didn't want to comment about the Rugby World Cup at this stage, we had a gander at the Major Events Management Act and it appears that taxis carrying advertising would be considered to be going about their normal business and would still be able to operate in the clean zones (the Ministry of Economic Development hasn't made a formal decision on the extent of the clean zones, but it's thought the major players are happy with a distance of 500m).
Along with street-level exposure, Dove says 55 million taxi journeys are taken annually in New Zealand, with the average ride hosting 2.4 people and taking 14 minutes. So, he believes there are plenty of opportunities to communicate messages inside vehicles as well, including things like branded receipts, product giveaways, door stickers. He has also embraced the opportunities presented by mobile marketing and partnered with TXT Engine.
While the first campaign is yet to go live, Dove says there's been plenty of interest from agencies and even a few large clients that have been approached directly, none of whom he is able to name at present. And, while there's no doubt it's a tough sector, the outdoor revenue numbers are on the up, it's a good, professional offering and the onslaught of humans for the Rugby World Cup is sure to see many of the nations cabs in action, so it could be a pretty good year to kick the business off.