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Mobile ads hit the car dashboard

January 27, 2014

BMW has announced a project done in coordination with SAP to bring personalized ads to car dashboards based on location-based services.

In a statement, the auto manufacturer said BMW ConnectedDrive already offers numerous location-based information services, with the technology greatly depending on filtering the needs and preferences of the individual user.

"In our vision for a virtual marketplace of the future, the vehicle will provide customers with context-adaptive, preference-based and timely offers and information relevant to their route," says Dr. Jörg Preißinger, project manager at BMW Group Research and Technology.

With the "Virtual marketplace of the future" research project, SAP developed a cloud-based virtual marketplace solution while BMW developed an in-car backend-based software system for getting the marketplace information and services to the customer. The joint project developed basic technologies for parking and couponing.

In the case of parking, a car approaching its destination will send out space choices based on real time local information, including availability and fees, as well as the driver's personal preferences.

Around couponing, the release states the project "could allow future navigation systems not only to provide information about the quickest route but also to provide recommendations about special coffee deals at filling stations, the best parking deals or even real-time offers at a sports shop along the route — but only if the driver wants."

Australia's motoring.com.au described other possible scenarios: "Let's say, for example, you are on a family road trip, somewhere out in the country. Your BMW could flash up with a commercial for a McDonald's that is only 6km down the road. Or you were simply cruising near a shopping strip and pure merino wool suits were half price, the car would notify the driver."


Discussion Questions:

What do you see as the relative pros and cons of mobile advertising in automobiles? Will autos ultimately be a more successful platform for location-based mobile ads than smartphones?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

What's the likelihood that location-based mobile ads sent to car dashboards will be fairly common in the years ahead?


Who would possibly want this unless someone is looking for the offering? I'm thinking more accidents outweighs any benefit.

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Dr. Stephen Needel, Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations

Oh dear...talk about mixed blessings. Find me a parking space? Yay!! Bombard me with ads? Boo!!

I think if there's a way to opt in and out of various categories of ads/services, it could take off. But if it's "all or nothing," I'd opt out.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

From my standpoint, the cons far outweigh the pros. The customer shells out a lot of money to own a BMW, but BMW isn't satisfied with that. They leverage the deal by selling advertising space in the owner's car and if I know anything about marketing, "lifestyle" info about the driver's habits and travel locations. Unless BMW is paying car owners to do this, there are plenty of apps that can provide these features, except for the in-dash convenience.

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Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

This could be extremely useful if retailers can use their loyalty card information to send out deals that would encourage the shopper to their stores. It could be that the shopper knows that that they need to purchase cereal and coffee and could probably get the other items that are needed at this particular retailer. There are so many tie-ins that can be established including gas rebates which is being done by Costco.

The challenge will be how to do this without it becoming really annoying. I guess, you can simply turn the system off and listen to some good music instead.

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Zel Bianco, President, founder and CEO, Interactive Edge

Seriously!!! Are we going to have ads installed inside the lids of our toilet seats when they are in the up position for New Charmin Ultra Soft next? People need a break from commercialism, believe me, and if the folks who designed this thinks it is a good idea, than I'm getting too old for what is next.

The people already text and drive, now add this and you'll have more carnage on the roads. Retail is not easy, but there are limits to how much we can invade people's space, and this is not it. I'm done.

More Coffee please....

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Tony Orlando, Owner, Tony O's Supermarket & Catering

Again the digital promise: cool answers looking for non-existent questions from customers. I could see this more in a Kia with ads from McDonald's than a luxury automobile, but that doesn't say much....

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Bob Phibbs, President/CEO, The Retail Doctor

There is a fine line between providing desired information and advertising. Advising how many parking spaces are available in a parking lot and directing consumers to them is one thing, flashing McDonald's ads is completely different. Will BMW drivers be able to select the information they want to receive, if they want to receive it at all? Automobiles are a place to escape and enjoy "The ultimate driving machine." Ads are not part of the ultimate driving experience.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Finally! Looks the car manufacturers have recognized the opportunity that exists for in-motion, in-car advertising giving auto collision shops, funeral homes, and ambulance-chaser attorney ads a medium other than afternoon talk shows. Well done, guys. Well done.

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Larry Negrich, Director, Business Development, TXT Retail

This is one of the first forays into ambient computing - that is, environments that are web-enabled, and link the user to his personal profile via the cloud, anywhere, anytime.

We are bound to see more of this kind of thing - for home, airports, train stations, work environments, stores, and hotels. Ambient computing means that we don't need to drag a laptop or GPS around with us. Web connectivity will be built-into the world around us. And along with that, access to our personal information, preferences and finances. I imagine that ambient computing will require a biometric identifier, such as a palm print or iris scan.

The natural advantage of ambient computing in the car, is that it is hands-free and overlays relevant information onto the field of vision.

The obvious disadvantage is distraction from the road. That's a biggie. Voice commands and directions seem more conducive to driving, since the driver can keep his eyes on the road. The visual aspect of the information is the issue. Even so, the question is not whether, but how will we introduce ambient computing into our car culture. Fasten your seat belt!

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Liz Crawford, SVP, Strategy & Insights, Head of ShopLab, Match Drive

Having location information about what is nearby, upon request, is handy but I cannot imagine anyone wanting to have ads popping up on their navigation screen. I realize many seem to want to be connected all the time, receive real-time offers, have shopping help, etc., but not while driving down the road. There are enough car accidents already caused by distracted drivers.

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

Guess I'll cancel plans to buy a beemer.


I'd love to jump in with the "do we really need this?!?!" theme here. But I just can't. While I hate the idea of intrusive streaming ads and even more distracted drivers, I think Liz Crawford has it right. This is just an early stage example of living in the world of ambient computing. We've been watching this world on TV since Star Trek. And we all know what happens to things we see first in the movies or on TV. You know, like submarines and space travel....

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Ben Ball, Senior Vice President, Dechert-Hampe

Brilliant. Great idea, until some government agency decides it is dangerous and makes it illegal.


What are the safety issues involved here and how will the manufacturers and governments address them? There are already enough distractions around driving. Unless this is an audio service, I think it will be an issue for car manufacturers and law enforcement.

I think smartphones still have the most potential simply based on usage to date and location based info and ads is a logical next step.

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J. Peter Deeb, Managing Partner, Deeb MacDonald & Associates, L.L.C.

Oh boy, let's put another screen in front of an already distracted driver. NOT!

Lee Kent, Sharing Insights for Success in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

If I watch the ads, they'll pay for my BMW, right?

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Jonathan Marek, Senior Vice President, Applied Predictive Technologies

To be successful at influencing behavior, advertising must be disruptive. As I consider BMW's proposed concept, I can't get past the irresponsibility of deliberately distracting drivers using a video screen.

On the other hand, I can see how this might be suitable in a self-guided vehicle, like those being tested by Google. It's probably OK to interact with passengers, if they will tolerate it. Then again, how is more advertising supposed to be compatible with a luxury car experience?

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James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

This is simply the evolution of advertising. The consumers' attention spans are decreasing and the skipping through of ads on TV, the web, etc. is becoming more prevalent. This is one more way to capture the attention of a "captive" audience. It is happening. This is the future. There is way too much potential ad revenue to flow through all of our cars.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

No. In-auto advertising is a tremendous safety hazard, and after a few placement firms are sued, the move to adapt to this opportunity will be lost. Drivers must focus on the road when they are driving, and cannot be distracted by any ads (they are not supposed to be watching or interacting with their on-board or on-phone screens) because they jeopardize the safety of all of the cabin's inhabitants.

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Kai Clarke, CEO, American Retail Consultants

As with smartphones, success will depend on relevance. Consumers will tune out ads and promotions that lack context, especially as it relates to the "driving mission" (a concept like "shopping mission"). To that end, I would expect best-in-class in-car brand communications to support and complement retail channels and the consumer's smartphone - the car trip is a requisite to visit a store so it would be interesting to see at home or in-car digital experiences lead to a store trip, that was further enhanced by a connected mobile shopping experience on the consumer's handset. Executing this dialog across these channels will be challenging though given the different systems and data involved.

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Gib Bassett, Retail and Consumer Goods Industry Principal, Oracle

The only way this works is when the owner is already in a search, e.g. I am looking for a restaurant and it shows me "sponsored" links. I can't see popping up promotions while the car is moving because that's just distracting. If I were navigating to a location and the nav wants to give me a promotion for a particular parking lot when I get there, I can see that working.

The key is that it has be VERY context sensitive and relevant to the driver's current task to make it a value add rather than being perceived as a money grab by BMW.

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Kenneth Leung, Retail and Customer Experience Expert, Independent

Just like any new technology, this is in its infancy and we can't accurately predict how this will work. For now, it seems like there are some helpful concepts, such as parking. There are also evasive concepts, such as adds popping up as you drive by/near a retail or restaurant location. How much the customer receives will probably be based on the customer's decision to accept it.

Just like what smart phone technology offers, the customer will (at least should) be able to pick and choose the content he/she wants.

And one other comment: Safety first. We don't need more distractions that could potentially cause an accident. I'm sure that will be well thought out if this becomes mainstream.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

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