Coca-Cola announced a deal with Cargo, an in-car merchandising startup, to provide its Smart Water-branded drinks to passengers in Uber and Lyft vehicles in its hometown of Atlanta.
The startup provides ride-hail drivers in target cities with in-car vending machines, where passengers can use an app to purchase all sorts of millennial-focused products, including "hangover cures, trendy Korean face masks and all-natural protein bars."
Sure, Ford Motor Co. may be focused on social innovation in its new nonemergency medical shuttle service. And Uber and Lyft may be constantly tinkering with new budget services to maximize profits. But we forget the real cash cow that ride-hailing and, eventually, self-driving ride-hail vehicles will tap: corporate sponsorships.
Yes, mobility companies are sure to take advantage of advertising just as taxicab companies before them did through exterior ad-wrapping. Product placement, originally a way for brands to cozy up to film and TV stars in an inconspicuous way, is a natural extension of that strategy. One survey of 2,000 commuters found that 40 percent of drivers already order coffee on their way to work and more than half order food.
Mark my words, in a few decades, we'll have a minibar in all our cars stocked with products from whatever corporation pays top dollar.
Of course, the implications for consumer choice and brand weariness should give us pause, but if we have to choose between this and being subjected Clockwork Orange-style to endless 3-D advertising on loop in the car, we'll take the Coke, please.
— Shiraz Ahmed