Riding With Brands

By Devesh Gupta , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | March 05, 2014
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Brands have taken 'cabvertising' to a new level of late by using the platform not just for product promotion but for sampling and sales as well. A quick look at these brands on wheels.

Imagine taking a ride in a radio cab and, and using your travel time to try out a new product, say, a box of oats, and actually purchasing a fresh pack from your cabbie when you reach your destination. Well, it would have been a farfetched concept few years back; today, thanks to radio cabs, it isn't.

Cab Ambi: Customer is actually buying the product from the cab

Cab Huawei: The brand offered people free wi-fi services in the cab to promote their new product

Cab Kellogg's: The brand offered breakfast in the cab to make them sample their latest product

What used to be a medium for static image display (vehicle wrap-arounds, posters on the doors) is now an interactive platform for product placement and in some cases, sale. Cabs used for such branding belong to the organised private radio cab category that includes players like Meru Cabs, TabCabs, Easy Cabs, Ola Cabs and many more names.

Consider a few examples: Earlier this year, popular cereal brand Kellogg's, in association with Meru Cabs, let commuters sample the product while riding. It was timed to coincide with breakfast hours. A total of 200 cabs, heavily branded on the outside, provided breakfast, free of cost, to any one passenger who chose to use the service between 6:00 am and 9:00 am, for a fixed period.

Car freshener brand, Ambi Pur, in a similar move last year , gave commuters the opportunity to sample the product while en route and offered a product discount of Rs 25, if the commuter chose to make a purchase on reaching his/her destination. A banking brand recently tied up with Meru Cabs to give commuters a discount of Rs 50 on their cab fare, if he/she was game for a quick sales pitch for a credit card, made by an official representative of the bank, on reaching their destination.

Around a month back, eBay provided free rides to people in Mumbai, in exchange for a quick talk about the brand's nine-hour delivery feature, made by none other than the cab driver himself, who also handed out branded leaflets. Few months back, telecom infrastructure and solutions provider, Huawei, offered free Wifi to consumers in Easy Cabs for a month. With the help of an adapter installed in the cigarettes section, the brand plugged its E355 offering, converting the cab into a wifi-enabled zone.

Many radio cabs, today, come with android-enabled interactive screens that are typically attached to the rear of the front seats. Among other things, these screens are used to display product catalogues, and play television commercials and brand jingles. Experts point out that the in-cab android screen is used most often by realty and automobile brands and is leveraged primarily to explain product features.

Siddharth Pahwa

Sakshi Vij

Prasenjeet Bagchi

Static branding across the doors and boot of the vehicle is commonly done by brands from telecom, magazine, real estate, travel, banking and insurance categories. Over the years, however, this format too has evolved to 3D posters and larger than life product images, for example, Snickers' recent 'roof branding'.

Why It Works

Cab branding, say experts, forms only 5-10 per cent of most brands' outdoor budget. Yet, this medium is a fast-growing one. According to Siddhartha Pahwa, CEO, Meru Cabs, advertising on this medium is growing by 30 per cent CAGR. Sakshi Vij, VP, corporate marketing and business development, Carzonrent, a car rental firm, tells us, Rs 170-200 crore was spent on cab advertising during 2012-13.

Let's take a look at what the platform offers: A radio cab, most used across the top seven to eight metros, covers around 150-200 km daily. Locations these cabs frequent most include airports, railway stations, corporate parks, malls and arterial roads across cities. As some experts deduce, most of the people who use these services regularly are working professionals, across age groups, from SEC A and B.

The 'interaction time' brands get with their consumers through this kind of advertising is up to 45 minutes, heaps more than that offered by other online or offline platforms. Samir Chaudhary, co-founder, The Media Ant, a firm that helps advertisers discover suitable media for promotional proposes, says, through in-cab promotion, "brands get a captive audience for an hour or even more."

Meru's Pahwa explains why in-cab branding, leads to minimal media wastage, especially when compared to other outdoor media channels such as billboards. "If the marketing plan for the launch of a new product includes 200 cabs for one city, at the end of the month, the brand will have clocked in a distance of over 10 lakh km, with an average of 175 km daily, covering all the important locations of a given city, multiple times," he says. This way, a large number of eyeballs is almost assured, especially if there's traffic.

The impact is further amplified through a format called 'advertising road shows', wherein around 10-15 branded radio cabs collectively traverse the city. Moreover, as some experts point out, cabs afford an added benefit because they take different paths each time, unlike branded buses and trains that are required to follow a fixed route; though not a data-driven observation, this may just help brands garner more eyeballs.

Prasanjit Bagchi, CMO, TabCabs, tells us, that while most brands opt for 'outside branding', (slang for regular cab door/boot/roof branding) several players, including him, have begun vying for what he terms "premium eyeballs," that 'inside branding', (slang for in-cab branding/sampling/ sale), fetches. "We are trying to bundle it with the outside branding and sell it," he shares.

Cost-Effective Medium?

Most advertisers believe so. On an average, one cab, including inside and outside branding, costs anywhere between Rs 5-7 thousand. Therefore, the cost of 200 cabs would fall between Rs 12-13 lakh. In comparison, two billboards at a premium location in Mumbai would cost the same if not more.

"Outdoor hoardings coms with certain limitations; they, unlike taxis, don't move," says Amar Saraswat, GM, marketing, Tata Docomo, hazarding a cross-medium perspective, "With TV and radio people can switch the channels, you can flip pages in print, but here (in-cab branding) people cannot avoid it. So visibility is high."

Moreover, while calculating ROI in the case of external vehicle wraps is difficult, doing so for in-cab product promotion is easier; a brand manager can only guess the number of people that saw a particular branded cab on the streets but can certainly avail data that may help him/her reach a near-conclusive figure, in the case of in-cab branding.

Advertisers can, on a daily/weekly basis, check the number of locations the cab travelled to, number of passengers that used the vehicle, number of times the ad appeared on the screen and number of leaflets given to commuters. Further, advertisers can also avail data that reveals the number of times commuters heard/watched the full ad and at what stage it was turned off.

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