Taxi advertising has grown steadily from a small base five years ago to account for revenues of around £15 million, placing it well beyond the stunt promotional status it had in its early days. It is now a well-established, rapidly maturing sector with a growing body of research to support its claims of effectiveness, especially in a retail context.
Around 90 per cent of this revenue goes to a handful of specialist media owners, including Taxi Media (owned by Clear Channel), KBH Transport Media, Ubiquitous and MetroCabs. The rest is accounted for by one-man bands, largely in provincial cities.
Taxi Media is the biggest player, operating in all 12 ITV regions, covering a total of 108 towns and cities in the UK, so it can offer national packages as well as more precise geographical targeting. It also offers specifics such as airports - Heathrow is clearly its most important opportunity - and events such as Wimbledon.
Inside, formats include tip-up seat location and branded receipts; outside, there are supersides and all-over liveries. The creative opportunities here have developed hugely, as vinyl-printing technologies have become increasingly sophisticated.
In its earliest days, the medium was seen primarily as a means of targeting a business audience and the financial community, which in London principally means the City. But the sector really began to take off when media owners and advertisers began to acknowledge the important role taxis play in shopping trips - especially against a more upmarket demographic - and also, more broadly, in the evening, for people out on the town.
That is why we have seen a whole host of clothing and fashion brands using the medium recently ( including H&M, Timberland, CAT, Sergio and Jigsaw) and fragrance and cosmetics advertisers such as Calvin Klein, Dior, Chloe and Estee Lauder.
Meanwhile, the leisure angle has helped draw in all of the major mobile phone companies, plus drinks brands such as Smirnoff Ice, Fuller's, Remy and Gordon's. Some cabs specialise in transport terminal pick-ups and they tend to be used mainly by hotel and airline brands.
Outwardly, taxis continue to be increasingly sophisticated mobile brand icons and they are eminently visible, covering an average of 126 miles per day in cities. But, as in other areas of the outdoor business, this sector is looking for ways to develop ever more sophisticated and integrated opportunities.
One example last year saw DDB London and Tribal DDB use liveried cabs, via Taxi Media, to set up an interactive game of Monopoly to promote Hasbro's launch of an anniversary version of the game. The streets of London effectively became a life-size playing board, with taxis representing the playing pieces, with their locations constantly monitored using GPRS.
The game was conducted via a dedicated Hasbro website, which gave the company opportunities to capture data offered by participants.
And, of course, media owners will be hoping to keep pushing the boundaries where mobile technologies are concerned - making the most of the fact that taxis deliver a captive audience with little to do for an average journey time of between 15 and 30 minutes.
MAJOR PLAYERS: Taxi Media (owned by Clear Channel), KBH Transport Media, Ubiquitous, MetroCabs, Mobile Media Promotions, Vision Outdoor
WHAT'S NEW: Phone chargers, phone demonstrators, TV screens, dedicated radio stations
CASE STUDY - Dubai Tourism
Client: Dubai Tourism
Agencies: Initiative Dubai, IPM
Media owner: KBH Transport Media
Brief: Build diversity of Dubai as a holiday destination - hence nine
different creative executions
Target market: All London adults
Sector inventory used: Taxi advertising
Wider outdoor inventory used: None
Other media used: None