Advertising On The Prowl

Since I cannot devote as much time to blogging as I would like, I cannot be as complete as I would like in this particular post. (At 60 or more hours a week driving, blogging has got to be a sideline.) The subject, however, needs more research than I can give to it now in order to be done right, and so, dear reader, you will have to consider this post a trial run of the more thorough treatment that, hopefully, will emerge over time.

That subject is : how does the taxi tv work?

By this I mean, what is its goal, and how does it achieve it?

The goal, of course, is to generate revenue for the TLC and (presumably) for owners of cabs. This is done by charging the companies who advertise on the the tube to pay for doing so.

But what do they expect to accomplish by this advertising, you might ask (or I might ask, for “purposes of argument,” shall we say).

The first point to remember is that, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, there are, on average, at least 5 to 6 million cab passengers per week year round in New York City. And all these people are confined to a relatively tiny place, for 5 or 10 minutes, or longer — and in the case of airport trips maybe for 30 or 40 minutes.

This makes of them a captive audience.

If they were at home, they could get up and go the the kitchen to make a sandwich while the “commercials” were on, or call a friend, or use their computers. In other words, they could escape.

On the other hand, when they’re in the back of the cab, they can go nowhere : they are stuck where they are, and can’t move much more than a foot in either direction. They are trapped. They are restrained. There is nowhere they can go.

This is where the advertisers begin to scent blood. The ads they inflict on cab passengers are nowhere so easy to evade as the ads they inflict on people at home or in cars. Such people have begun tuning ads out in greater and greater numbers. At this point there is even software that deletes ads when someone records material on a VCR.

I have been informed by several passengers from the ad industry that the industry is “in crisis.”

What to do?

Well — leaving the taxi tv aside for the moment — one way to turn the tables on the increasingly large part of the public that is sick of ads is to place “advertising media” (fancy words for “boob tubes”) in places where you can’t ignore them.

One such place is a gas station. Now, often, you will pump your gas beneath a tv tube featuring an ad campaign, with some weather thrown in, just to get you to look at the tube in the first place.

Or elevators. Did you ever think you would see tv’s in elevators? Probably not, but now you do, and will, because you’re trapped on the elevator and, therefore, a perfect object for an ad.

As people get better at evading ads at home and in their cars, the ads, refusing to be denied, are shadowing these people all around town. You and I are, in effect, being shadowed. Shadowed by advertisers, and by the ad agencies they hire to make up the ads in the first place.

Perhaps the best venue for persistent advertising is the back of a taxicab, because the average cab ride is longer than the average elevator ride or the average time spent pumping gas.

And so, presto! — the taxi tv!

Loved by few, loathed by many, but esteemed — if only as a last ditch effort by a challenged industry — as the salvation of the day!

You can’t escape it like you do the ads at home : it has you right where it wants you.

And, after you’ve left the cab, its accomplices will stalk you right into the elevator you take and the gas station you fill up at. And — who knows — it might soon be coming to a house of worship in your very own neighborhood, and even — dare we object? — to your library, your beach, your park, your woodlot, your garbage dump, your roof, your lobby, your air shaft. Dare we assume your toilet itself is far behind?

After all, several years ago no one foresaw TV’s in the backs of taxis, or at gas stations, or in elevators …


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