You're steering your car around an unfamiliar city, close to lunchtime, and you're not exactly sure where to eat, let alone where you can park. But your in-car infotainment system springs into action, serving up not only the location of a nearby parking lot but also coupons and offers for restaurants just steps away from where you've left your car.
It's called contextual marketing, and to some drivers, it sounds like a dream--tailor-made offers delivered right to you based on your location. To others, it's more of a nightmare--advertising finding yet another way to intrude on your daily life, and inside the privacy of your own car no less. Whatever you think of the practice, it's not going to go away any time soon: In-car marketers are looking for new ways to tap into your automotive data to deliver targeted messages and offers. The trick, experts say, will be for these kinds of ads to walk the fine line between being useful or being annoying.
"There is an opportunity for in-vehicle marketing to be beneficial to consumers, if done in an unobtrusive way," Andy Gryc, conference director for the Connected Car Expo told me. As cars continue to have connected capabilities with preferences, social networks, web searches, and calendars, marketing will be precisely geared toward a driver's likes and needs, Gryc says.
It's already happening on some level. Take Magellan's SmartGPS, which launched last year. The navigation device features a tiled interface, where the tiles serve up information relevant to your location--including nearby offers through Foursquare.
Gryc believes that we're just in the early stages of car makers and in-car system designers working with app developers to better integrate marketing into the connected car experience.
"The car is going to be a part of people's connected lifestyles like the smartphone is today, a crucial tool for making life easier," he said.
As with any marketing, though, the challenge will be to make it a service and not an imposition on the driver.
Rewarding with freebies
Kiip CEO Brian Wong thinks his company's approach--Kiip-enabled apps reward people for using the app--meets that requirement. Kiip first started offering rewards in mobile games, then expanded its program to people who completed tasks in the Any.Do to-do list app. Now it's moving into the connected car realm, striking a deal earlier this year with Mojio to reward what the company calls "driving moments."
Mojio makes a $149 device that connects to the on-board diagnostic computer in your car and includes a companion smartphone app. Mojio's device logs real-time data, including driving styles and weather conditions. That, in turn, generates rewards from Kiip. If it's raining, say, a driver may get an offer for a free windshield wiper blade installation.
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