B2B Marketing Blog

Written by The Mezzanine Group
on July 07, 2010

The California DMV might soon issue digital license plates that display ads when a vehicle is not in motion, as a means to draw in revenue to battle the state’s financial woes.
The bill's author, Democratic Sen. Curren Price of Los Angeles, said California would be the first state to implement such technology if the state Department of Motor Vehicles ultimately recommends the widespread use of the plates. He said other states are exploring something similar.
Interested advertisers would contract directly with the DMV, thus opening a new revenue stream for the state, Price said.
"We're just trying to find creative ways of generating additional revenues," he said. "It's an exciting marriage of technology with need, and an opportunity to keep California in the forefront."

The bill passed muster in the California legislature, and is currently awaiting DMV approval. A spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he will remain neutral until the bill reaches his desk.
It does not include estimates of how much revenue could be saved or gained from license plate advertising.

A few observations:
--The plates will only show ads only when the car isn't moving – to figure that out, the plates need either a built-in GPS or a connection to the car's speedometer or wheels. The plates also need a built-in power source or a connection to the car's battery. The wiring adjustments could be problematic, especially for older vehicles; and privacy advocates might not appreciate a government-mandated GPS device attached to their vehicle.

--There's never been an electronic device that couldn't be hacked. Within 24 hours of this plate's release, somebody will be sure to hack it. People have successfully faked license-plates with sharpies and cardboard; if not implemented properly, this could be much worse.

--Does anybody else feel that the push to put ads everywhere might eventually backfire? I think that the future is in high-ROI, targeted advertisements -- not in license-plate billboards. Who would pay for those ads, anyway? Car insurance companies?

--Interstate travel would suddenly become a more interesting/embarrassing experience for Californians.

...I know that the advertising landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years, but this still is a head-scratcher.

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