Digital advertisements are becoming more common than ever in smart cities. Just walk down a mile and you are sure to see a couple of digital signage these days. Apart from how they impact pedestrian’s decision-making process, they are surfacing as potential channels for public funding. One side of the reality about ads reveal that they pollute cities by contributing to carbon footprint, annoy consumers and put a question mark on its own existence. And the other side of the reality shows that ads are not just a way for brands to communicate, and local government to receive funds, but also a channel to spread awareness – for the betterment of smart cities. So, the debate is on!
However, it is true that governments need funds to introduce and maintain smart city infrastructure for citizens. And the brands and marketers need platforms to display their services and products. Hence, it is a win-win situation on both sides. But in the midst of all this, how do ads affect smart cities? Let us see the face of it!
How Tech Start-ups Are Benefiting From Ads Innovatively?
The startup Firefly is enabling its rideshare drivers to earn extra income through digital advertisements. It has launched $21.5 million in seed funding to equip mountable digital smart screen for its ride-hailing vehicles to display ads. The screens are available to display ads that are programmable remotely. It allows the display of geofenced ads for national and local brands, small businesses and charities. A minimum of 10% of the ads space is reserved for local non-profits, public sector, and other charities and community groups. The screens will also provide essential data including clean air and mobility circumstances to the local governments.
Before taking the initiative, Firefly has conducted beta testing on this kind of innovative advertising strategy during a trial in Los Angeles. The strategy introduced has come to be an advantage for ride-hailing drivers who do not get enough income to make a living. New York City became the first region to fix a minimum wage for the drivers. And Firefly claims that the average driver using its service is able to make an additional $300 a month.
Considering the benefits of such ad inclusions, it is more likely that the strategy for in-vehicle and on-vehicle ways will be emulated by other companies. This has become the latest way by which ride-hailing drivers can earn extra wages. In early 2018, Uber collaborated with Cargo to keep products such as gum, snacks, and beverages in ride-hailing vehicles to allow drivers to make money via in-vehicle purchases.
Furthermore, smart city kiosks are platforms that are almost incomplete without the display of digital advertisements. The best example is the launch of LinkPHL in Philadelphia that allows people to enjoy free WiFi, mobile charging points and much more at free of cost. This is happening due to revenue generated from the advertisements displayed.
Another start-up UZE Mobility in Germany has come up with an innovative idea to increase the usage of electric mobility. The company is offering its electric vehicles on rent for free to the users and is planning to make money by mounting digital screens on the vehicles and selling the ad space. This model could also be introduced in public transports which may boost the uptake.
On the other side of Europe, the UK government is said to be planning to launch sponsored highways by enabling business branding. This scheme is already in action in the US as ‘Adopt-A-Highway’ which permits businesses to display their advertisements along the freeways. The money raised from the scheme is used for the maintenance of the freeways. As per reports, sponsored highways could gather as much as £20 million per road per year.
After having explored the possibilities of digital advertisements and how it can impact smart cities, let us see what the end-consumers have to say about it.
Surveys Unveiling The Responses Of Citizens
Recently, Kantar Millward Brown, a world leader in brand strategy consulting and advertising development performed a survey among 1,001 US internet users. 71% of the participants responded that ads have become more interfering than they were three years from now. Roughly, the same percentage of participants agreed that they are seeing more ads everywhere in more number of places.
Similarly, Janrain, a Portland-based software company conducted a survey of 1,079 US internet users in August 2018. The company provided different statements for the participants to choose from. And most of them agreed that ads were too aggressive. This is definitely something advertisement companies need to address.
But another survey conducted by Clear Channel Outdoor showed that governments and citizens are frequently recognising the ways in which street advertising can have a positive impact. The report revealed that the majority of people see out-of-home advertising as a positive contribution in the society.
82% of the participants admitted that advertisements including digital screens, posters, and billboards have a positive influence. This means that ads contribute from making the surroundings appear more colourful to bringing money into smart cities. 78% of the participants in London admitted that they depend on ads to know about brands and to make their preferences.
The Opposite Aspect Of Digital Ads
Of course, in the time of tight budgets, governments would surely not like missing an opportunity to enhance city experience without any investment. JCDecaux and Clear Channel are such companies that are providing street furniture including bus stops, bicycle stands in return for advertising space.
Though sometimes, but it happens that while including certain factors such as ads, the focal point of enhancing public service for citizens is forgotten. The same thing happened in 2015 when JCDecaux replaced 2000 bus shelters of Paris with a new model. The new shelters had a sleek design with USB ports for charging mobile devices and big digital advertising screens. But the only problem was the bus stop did not provide any shelter from the rain and eventually, it had to be changed.
Besides, there are cities that understand the negative impact of over-inclusion of ads in the urban space. Take, for example, Sao Paolo, Chennai and Grenoble that have taken steps to prevent advertising from taking over. Certainly, there are people who have shown their dissatisfaction against ads.
Take the good side or the bad side of the ads, one thing is certain that ads have a powerful impact on society. Hence, smart cities need to look for ways that make the existence of ads within the urban environment more favourable for the people. Ads are important communication points in cities and so they can be used to inspire people and change things for better and make urban environment more cheerful. Moreover, outdoor digital advertisements can be used as a medium to convey important information related to public events and services and provide data through maps and clocks.
More importantly, brands and marketers need to understand and display ads that convey a useful message in society and not just focus on attracting people to buy their stuff. For example, a useful and rather inspiring advertisement can have a product being promoted but at the same time spreading an important message in the community. As a whole, governments, companies, and marketers can come together and revolutionise the way existence of ads is perceived in society. Whatever smart cities do, they should no that advertisements must be a part of sustainable development.