Auto rickshaw advertising may have really captured the fancy of the masses with the innovative “Capacity – 3 Idiots” campaign painting the town towards the end of last year but the medium has been live for quite some time now and has helped build many brands in the process. Many of India’s prominent start-up brands have been largely built using this medium.

The Road so far

Mouthshut and Tally were probably among the first technology brands to use this medium effectively to build a presence in the offline world. Mouthshut even claims to have received 30M PVs/month as a result of the initial phases of the campaign, an imposing number considering typical startup marketing budgets.

Oracle Recruitment Drive

Oracle Recruitment Drive

Following the success of these brands, other home-grown tech companies like MapMyIndia and Zoho have leveraged auto-rickshaws well to create a presence for their brand.

Till very recently, this space was largely unorganised. A company would get 100-200 autos, pay the rickshaw owners a couple of hundred rupees and paint the brand on the hood of the auto.
To ensure that the auto rickshaw drivers are incentivized to retain the ad, some companies even pay the driver an amount if the ad is still present after 3-6 months. MapMyIndia has been following an incentive plan along those lines.

What works

Cost: The cost, without a doubt, is among the most attractive reasons for using this medium.
Engagement: If you really think about it, auto rickshaw ads can engage the user longer than most other ad media. A person stuck in traffic, often, has little else to do than stare at the back of the vehicle in front. In fact, this is pretty much the same reason that billboards placed at bus traffic junctions charge higher than those along the road at non-junctions.
Mobile coverage 24X7: The performance of the ad is inherently linked to the performance of the driver . The more the number of trips that the driver makes, the greater the visibility.

The Road Ahead

The potential of this advertising medium has always been immense and it is, of late, being recognized by various groups which are trying to organize the entire advertising process.
Nyayabhoomi, a Delhi-based NGO which works on promoting auto-rickshaws and improving their services helped get the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), which holds advertising rights in Delhi, to approve advertising on auto-rickshaws on a revenue-sharing basis.

Following the MCD approval, JKJS, an auto-rickshaw advertising company, has started providing out of the box ad solutions on 5000 autos in Delhi, making it the single-largest provider of this nature. Their service “Ad it on Auto” adds other VAS to the advertising including ensuring replacement of ads in case of wear and tear.

Various models are being pursued to innovate in auto-rickshaw advertising:
Customized auto-rickshaws: Better suited for advertisements with spacious back, side and roof display space and multiple inside panels.
LED advertising screens: On the back of auto-rickshaws to enable nighttime viewing

Taking auto advertising to the next level, and moving from outdoor formats to indoor formats, three young entrepreneurs in Mumbai have started ‘Meter Down’, a 24-page general interest monthly magazine which provides passengers travelling in auto rickshaws with short, crisp and quick-to-read articles. The general interest magazine is placed free of cost for the passengers and features a mix of travel, entrepreneurship, lifestyle and fashion-related articles. the idea is to get local advertisers to advertise in the magazine to an engaged audience which has little else to do when stuck in traffic jams.

Finally…

Think wild and LED screens coupled with GPS capabilities on auto rickshaw hoods could, one day, vary the advertisement based on the locality the auto rickshaw is driving through. ;-)
I would like to see the day when MNC’s coming into India actively budget for marketing on the auto channel. ;-) As for now, I hope more startups benefit out of this cost-effective medium.

Sangeet Paul Choudary is a leader in the New Ventures group at Intuit Asia-Pac and and loves chicken soup (for the stomach), post-modern satire (for the soul), an over-emphasis on business model and an under-emphasis on powerpoint. This post was first published at Venturati