Curb Taxi Media Lights Up NYC’s Yellow Cabs With Programmatic Ads

Where there’s a screen, there’s an opportunity for a programmatic ad.

Curb Media Network, the media division of taxi technology provider Curb Mobility, has turned on programmatic access to 1,200 digital screens across its fleet of yellow cabs in New York City.

Curb has operated a media network for years in partnership with 15 thousand cars across 10 major US cities. It began venturing into programmatic three years ago, when it teamed up with out-of-home exchange Vistar Media to enable programmatic sales for Taxi TV, the screens in the back of taxi cabs, which bring in 100 million impressions per month across its fleet.

Curb Media sells its taxi top inventory programmatically, both via Vistar’s out-of-home exchange and private marketplaces. Marketers can purchase via a self-serve platform or through a managed service team, and the ad will appear on taxi tops within minutes after Curb approves the creative.

“That’s one of the key drivers of this partnership: reducing friction on the buy side,” said Chris Polos, head of Curb Taxi Media.

Marketers can buy inventory across Curb’s network of taxi tops as well as the 22,000 Taxi TV screens it operates based on location, day-part and third-party data to trigger dynamic creative.

“It could be real-time location data, weather triggers or sports scores,” Polos said. “If you want to put a live feed of the Olympic medal count or the score of the basketball game, that’s easy.”

On the back end, Curb Media measures exposures by tying the location of a taxi exactly when an ad aired to the mobile devices in that area at the time.

Programmatic has attracted new brands to Curb that weren’t interested in buying its static inventory, such as quick service restaurants and retailers that run shorter promotions, Polos said. Curb expects to drive 10% to 15% of taxi media revenue through programmatic buys this year.

After expanding its programmatic footprint in NYC, Curb will expand to other cities. Enabling digital taxi tops is a big upfront investment for Curb, which covers the costs for its fleet owners. Plus, the company doesn’t want to flood the market with too much inventory too fast.

“You’re taking static inventory and making it digital, so you’ve created more inventory,” Polos said. “At what point do you start to have diminishing returns?”

Curb Media mostly works with out-of-home buyers, but is hiring a sales rep that specializes in working with digital agencies as more inventory is enabled programmatically. As buyers get more advanced, Polos said he expects to see more inventory transacted through PMPs.

“The open exchange doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your inventory will run,” he said. “PMPs give buyers more control.”

Digital taxi tops have become something of a phenomenon in the out-of-home space recently. Firefly, a startup that puts digital ads on top of ride-share cars, raised $30 million in May 2019.

“That you’ve got startups investing in the space brings a lot more attention to the category and should hopefully create more demand,” Polos said.

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