Friday, September 07, 2007

New York City Taxi Drivers Protest Video Screens

Well, it looks like that proposed strike by New York City cab drivers over the installation of video screens with GPS capabilities has actually happened. Coming during NYC's Fashion Week and the U.S. Open, the strike hasn't exactly crippled the city but it does let us all know exactly where this famously disgruntled group of workers stands on the matter, as if there were any doubts.

According to an article in Bloomberg yesterday, the strike began at 5 a.m. on Wednesday and will end today. Bloomberg spoke to Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of the Taxi Workers Alliance, who labeled the move as "effective", saying that "between the day and night shifts, there were 20,000 on strike out of 26,000 active drivers."

While this is more an issue about a group of workers feeling their privacy is being infringed upon, it also represents a valuable case study in regards to the idea of intrusiveness as it relates to OOH advertising.

The idea of video screens in the workplace is nothing new. Tons of corporate headquarters in NYC have screens in their elevators. But for the most part they're acceptable to passengers not only because they aren't overly intrusive, but also because they offer benefits in the form of useful news feeds to the viewer. If you work on the 50th floor, chances are you've already gotten a decent chunk of news by the time you get up to your office.

What we have to consider now is what the value of "privacy" is, and how people will react negatively if they feel they are watched too closely by some "Big Brother". Cab drivers are upset that the GPS systems could potentially be used to track them. Would a casual ad viewer in the cab likewise feel that geotargeted content is a little too Big Brother-ish for comfort?

Here's a hypothetical example, that probably would not be too far fetched: Say two co-workers are discussing lunch plans on the elevator and they've decided they don't know where to go. Suddenly, an ad pops up featuring two similar looking corporate types discussing the pros and cons of lunch at McDonald's. It'd be enough to make anyone suspicious, even if an innocent advertiser was simply taking advantage of time- and location specificity to deliver an ad about a relevant subject.

There is a fine line between delivering ads that are convenient because they're on-target, and those that are creepy because they use lots of information to hit too close to home. It's up to digital signage network owners to figure out where that line is, and how close to it they want to get.

Tags: digital signage, NY10, taxi signage

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