Rooftop Video Ads Bring Extra Cash For Uber, Lyft Drivers

By Carolyn Said
San Francisco Chronicle

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Startup “Firefly” enables professional drivers to make supplemental income by displaying ads while they drive.

San Francisco Chronicle

Uber driver Jackeline Arana was between passengers when she spotted a car with a video screen on top displaying ads and realized that putting one on her own car could be lucrative.

She turned off the Uber app and tailed the car for several blocks, eventually pulling over and running to speak to the driver. “I told him I really need extra money,” she said.

The driver gave her a card for Firefly, a San Francisco startup that places digital screens atop ride-hailed vehicles. Arana signed up as an early user, and she now makes an extra $400 a month.

A single mom of two, Arana said the money is really helpful for her older daughter’s college expenses. “I’m very happy for a way to get paid extra while driving,” she said.

Firefly, previously called Ozzy Media, has been working with several hundred drivers in a beta phase. It officially launched on Wednesday in San Francisco and Los Angeles, with New York coming next year.

Its pitch: Professional drivers (for ride-hailing services, delivery services such as DoorDash and Postmates, and taxi companies) can make supplemental income by displaying ads while they drive. The screens are “situationally aware” — they know where they are — so advertisers can target their outdoor messages by location and other criteria.

Firefly is among several startups seeking to use ride-hailing cars for mobile advertising. Other approaches are to wrap cars in giant vinyl decals, mount video screens in the back seat, and provide for-sale snacks and samples. The concepts may be a precursor to future robot taxi rides, which many experts think will be subsidized by advertising that could be in-vehicle or outside-vehicle displays.

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