Dentsu eyes driverless cars as important advertising medium

The company does not want to be left behind as mobility innovation opens up new ways to reach consumers.

The interior of a self-driving Mercedes-Benz concept car (Picture: Shutterstock)
The interior of a self-driving Mercedes-Benz concept car (Picture: Shutterstock)

As driverless cars, trucks and other forms of transportation continue to stimulate flights of imagination as well as controversy, advertising and media agencies have been unusually quiet about the new business potential this technology opens up.

According to forecasts by UBS earlier this year, autonomous vehicle revenue in the US alone will be worth around $2.3tn (£1.8tn) by 2030. The bank predicts in-car monetisation—the delivery of advertising and other "experience"-related services—will be worth more than $470bn. It expects Alphabet, the parent of Google and self-driving startup Waymo, to take the lion’s share.

But it appears Dentsu does not want to give things up so easily. Earlier this month, the company announced it had established a ‘mobility project team’ in partnership with Gunma University in Japan aimed at exploiting the communications potential of Mobility as a Service (MaaS).

Campaign asked Dentsu to explain its motivation for the project and how it sees the sector changing the agency’s own business. A spokesman for the team, whose name Dentsu withheld, said the company sees the development of the car as a space for relaxation creates an important new media channel for the company.

"We estimate that the environment of the car as a living space will increase in importance with automated technology," the spokesman said. This change "brings increasing business opportunities for the development of new communication methods for delivering information and content that allows drivers to not only focus on driving, but which also provides them with some choice on how to enjoy their entire journey inside the car. We believe Dentsu can contribute to suggesting how to have fun inside the car, or throughout the entire journey."

Dentsu said it is researching ways to deliver advertising and content to people who are likely to be more ‘mobile’ than they once were (such as elderly people living in remote areas) and people whose attention is freed up from driving. The spokesman said the details of the work are confidential but that it involves creating experiences "that make traveling more enjoyable by means of advertisement and communication".

Clearly, straightforward TV-style advertising is unlikely to contribute to a passenger's enjoyment of a journey, and Dentsu is working to determine what kind of content will be effective in that format, the spokesman said.

Asked what the long-term implications for the company and advertisers are, the spokesman said: "We believe that with the knowhow and opportunities afforded by automated driving we can provide new services that make use of contact points with new advertisements and content throughout the entire automated driving experience both within the car and outside in towns.

"In this way we hope to improve the value of mobile experiences and at the same time we will be able to consider the kind of services that will please local people by cooperating with various partners."

A version of this article was first published by Campaign Asia-Pacific

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