Some Uber, Lyft Drivers Have A Side Hustle

By Carolyn Said
San Francisco Chronicle

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Some Uber and Lyft drivers are also becoming mobile marketers. Through electronic tablets and billboards, businesses are tapping the drivers to reach a widespread audience of captive passengers and passersbys.

San Francisco Chronicle

Giant decals that encase cars with corporate logos and brand messages. Electronic billboards on auto roofs that flash advertisements. Digital tablets in the backseat that show videos and commercials. A hotel minibar-like selection of snacks and sundries for sale in the car with freebies of new products.

All are ways that clever entrepreneurs are trying to turn Uber and Lyft drivers into mobile marketers. The idea: Help drivers make more money while they’re already at work, and reach a widespread audience of captive passengers and passersby.

Most are backed by small startups that have yet to gain much traction, but they see giant untapped potential.

Marketing experts say the messages seem an effective way to grab eyeballs in a distracted world, while city
planners and residents decry the visual pollution of huge roving advertisements.

People may need to brace for even more ads on wheels: The concepts are precursors of the robot-taxi future, when omnipresent ads and tacked-on services may subsidize most rides.

“If you get in early on one of these things, you might get a whole bunch of social energy — people talking about it,” said David Aaker, a professor emeritus of marketing at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and author of “Creating Signature Stories.” “However, that will get old fast.

“The problem is that it may be distracting, obnoxious, and sound inauthentic and like a gimmick,” Aaker said.

“That’s OK for brands that are playful and outrageous anyway.”

For drivers, generating supplemental revenue while working seems like a win-win.

“We see a big opportunity for services that help drivers make more money without negatively impacting the passenger experience,” said Andy Pillsbury, vice president of SherpaShare, which makes an app for drivers to track their mileage and expenses. “If they can offer a service that enhances rides that’s even better.”

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