Ubers will soon be like taxis in another way, at least in New York City. The New York Post reports that over the coming weeks, about 3,500 Uber and Lyft black cars in New York City will install video screens with ads on them. This is similar to what you’ll find in many New York City taxis, though unlike in taxis, you won’t be able to mute these. Instead the New York City video-ad screens can only be “near” muted and “near” dark. In the future they may add the option to turn off the screens, depending on how users respond.

This is being done by ad company Vugo. Contracts are already signed, and they’re looking for even more drivers. This is being done as Uber and Lyft drivers complain about making less money. Apparently these screens will allow them to earn an additional $100-200 per month, with the potential for that to go up in the future.

The Taxi & Limousine Commission blocked for-hire vehicles from installing these screens back in 2011 (presumably in hopes of not making it lucrative for people to drive for these companies), though Vugo sued, and a federal court judge finally ruled last month that they can’t prohibit this technology.

What I find interesting here is that these monitors will initially only be installed in the higher end black cars, and not basic Ubers and Lyfts. From the perspective of an advertiser I get that (they’re going after a higher end customer), but at the same time it’s a bit ironic that many UberBLACKS will feature a less soothing atmosphere than UberXs.

Some people have an unusual perspective on this, like this driver:

Driver Mike Alvela, who signed up to put one of the screens in his car, said he thinks it will class up his rides.

“It gives riders something to play with and it looks trendy,” he said. “I hope it will help me get more five-star ratings.”

You hope that playing ads will get you more five star scores because video ads are “trendy?” Really?

Meanwhile Vugo claims that the ads won’t be as annoying as what you find in yellow cabs:

Bellefeuille claims the Uber screens won’t be nearly as annoying as Taxi TV, a fixture in all yellow cabs, and the Vugo screens will allow passengers to curate content and choose from channels including music videos, stand-up comedy, and sports.

“It’s all going to be relevant to the passengers,” Bellefeuille promised. “It won’t be the same Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon clip on repeat.”

I guess we’ll have to wait to see these firsthand before judging too harshly, though I’m skeptical.

As I said above, this is just Uber deviating further from what they initially promised. Uber’s tagline was “everyone’s private driver.” But over the years service has deteriorated, they’ve added tipping, and now some cars will have video ads. That doesn’t sound like what I’d expect from a “private driver.”

How bothered are you by video ads being installed in Ubers? Would it change your consumer behavior?

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

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