Malaysia startup will place ad screens in ride-hailing cars

Advertising platform expects to hit the road in late January with Uber and GrabCar drivers.

Malaysia startup will place ad screens in ride-hailing cars

KUALA LUMPUR - Media startup Rodeo is recruiting ride-sharing drivers to place advertising in their vehicles via headrest-mounted tablets, a first of its kind initiative in Malaysia.

Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific, CEO Valens Subramanian said the waning popularity of taxis among commuters prompted his company to approach ride-sharing drivers rather than taxi operators.

“In terms of reach, ride-sharing cars have a huge potential because the passengers are likely to be white-collar workers and yuppies,” said Valens. “It’s the way to go since regular taxi drivers are also jumping ship to join ride-hailing. Taxi advertising will eventually be pushed further to the sideline.”

Touchmedia, a company that placed screens in taxis in Chinese cities and Hong Kong, ceased its Chinese operations last October. 

Valens said that recruitment of drivers is ongoing, with the first phase of the venture expected to roll out in Greater Kuala Lumpur by the end of this month with 100 drivers. Uber and GrabCar are the two most popular ride-hailing apps in Malaysia, with an estimated 60,000 drivers countrywide. Rodeo aims to sign up 500 drivers every quarter, Valens added. 

Modelled after Google AdWords, the Rodeo platform enables real-time connection between advertisers and consumers. The system includes iBeacon and geo-fencing technology to allow advertisers to send push messages to passengers through the screens. Facial recognition will be introduced on the platform in Q2 to deliver targeted ads based on the passenger’s gender, Valens said.

"There is still a demand for DOOH (digital out of home), but impressions do not quantify ROI," Valens said. "Everyone is talking about programmatic these days, and clients demand conversion and more engagment with consumers."

Lenovo is onboard as the tablet sponsor, while Life Inspired is the platforms's content partner. The display on the screen will be 60 percent content from a selection of lifestyle programmes on the channel and 40 percent ads, with a 10-minute loop. As the tablet screen will inevitably compete with the passengers' phone during the ride, Valens said the platform is banking on engaging content to attract attention. "Passengers will be able to mute the programme for 10 seconds, but the audio will return to 50 percent level after that, so the programme will always be running in the background," he said. 

Other strategic partners include Shell, BP Castrol and toll operator Touch ‘n Go. Drivers signed up with Rodeo receive a monthly allowance of RM100 and those who drive more than 150 hours per month receive petrol vouchers as incentives. 

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