The pitfalls of GPS-based advertisingBy
The most compelling two seconds of a bus you’ll ever see.
In its ever-increasing quest to wrangle money out of the exposed services of its buses and subways, the MTA earlier this week announced yet another new source of advertising revenue. While the agency isn’t yet slapping product promotions on the names of its stations – do it! — it will now feature rotating, GPS-targeted ads on digital panels on the outsides of some buses. This will not end well.
Titan Worldwide, which has a 10-year, $800 million-plus contract to sell ads throughout the city’s bus and commuter-train systems, said that using GPS technology, it can wirelessly beam ads based on the bus’ location and the time of day.
For instance, the screens can show an ad for Saks Fifth Avenue while in Manhattan and change to Target in Brooklyn. The ads can even change languages according to the ethnicity of a neighborhood
“In the morning, we can show Starbucks, and on the way home from work, a Budweiser ad,” said Dave Etherington, Titan’s global marketing director.
As Jossip noted, these ads are rife with the potential to display inadvertently racist message because the GPS is set to include ethnicity and demographic information as the buses travel the city streets. I will leave the pitfalls of this approach up to your imagination. But installing these monitors on buses that, for example, travel from the UN to Harlem (M104) or any myriad buses that run up and down Flatbush Ave. could lead to some social faux pas.
The MTA is currently running these screens on the ever-popular trial basis along the slow M23 route. If this is deemed a feasible source of advertising — and a with a ten-year deal in the works, why not? — these panels will annoyingly come to a bus near you next year.