Uber and Lyft drivers who are looking to boost annual incomes without working more hours may soon find a way with Viewswagen, an in-car advertising company.
Viewswagen is an unofficial in-car advertising service for on-demand drivers that’s launching in the US next month. The company asks rideshare drivers to download two apps which will sync together: One for their smartphones, and another for their tablets which can be positioned in the back of the car for passengers to view and play with.
The system pulls in information from a passenger’s pick-up and drop-off points via the driver’s GPS, which Viewswagen says gives a signal of buying intent. For example, if a passenger takes Lyft from a college campus to Target, he or she may be looking to purchase school supplies. Other targeting options include more general location (like a city/suburb, or a more general retail location like “hardware store”), the number of people in the car and time of day.
The Viewswagen API does not, however, access personal information from a rider’s Uber account, like email, home address or phone number.
Viewswagen shares advertising revenue with the driver although the exact share percentage varies (a driver in a busy metropolitan area like New York City will probably earn more than one in a sleepy suburb, for example.)
James Bellefeuille, Viewswagen’s co-founder, told Business Insider the company conservatively estimates that drivers will make about $US3 more per hour using its service. In Chicago, for example, the average Uber driver earns $US16.80, according to Uber, which is just under $US35,000 per year. Viewswagen says a driver working full-time could see estimated earnings jump up to $US41,184 annually, and perhaps more.
Viewswagen will offer an Uber-like referral scheme, so the more of their fellow drivers they sign up, the more they earn too.
The risk of an Uber ban? “We’ll take a page from Uber’s playbook” when it comes to breaking the rules
Obviously one of the biggest risks to Viewswagen taking off is Uber and Lyft strictly prohibiting drivers using the service in its cars. But Bellefeuille has already thought about that.
Two landmark cases are set to take place in the San Franciso district court to determine whether drivers for services like Uber and Lyft should be considered employees or independent contractors. Bellefeuille said at the moment it looks as though Uber is losing the case and may have to count drivers as employees. If that happens, that would make it easier for Viewswagen to work with individual drivers as though they were “entrepreneurs,” as Bellefeuille puts it.
Even so, Uber or Lyft could still enact a blanket ban on use of Viewswagen in its vehicles, threatening to remove drivers from the service if they flouted the rules.
Bellefeuille says Uber (the biggest ride-sharing service in the US, and the focus of its efforts) is no stranger to breaking rules itself (It is banned in several cities): “They are violating local city state laws … I would say we are going to take the Uber strategy on that and take a page from their playbook.”
He added that it would cost uber a lot to either remove a driver from its service or from Viewswagen’s network and that “Uber is not the only show in town” for Bellefeuille’s service.
“The best drivers will go to the platform that pays almost 25% more,” he added.
Business Insider has contacted Uber for comment and will update this article once a response has been received.
Viewswagen claims it is more like Google AdWords than in-taxi advertising
Advertisers log in to a dashboard and determine how much they want to pay for a particular audience. If two advertisers are vying for the same audience, the ad will go to the highest bidder, although Bellefeuille says there will probably be enough inventory for both to appear on the tablet across the duration of a passenger’s journey — unless they are major competitors like Coke and Pepsi.
Viewswagen is also currently in the process of speaking with third-parties like agency trading desks, so ad buyers wouldn’t necessarily have to log in to the Viewswagen ad dashboard every time they wanted to buy an audience, and they could book their Viewswagen campaigns alongside other ad buys.
Prices are expected to start at around $US100-120 CPM (cost per thousand views), but prices will of course differ depending on the level of targeting and where the ads are being served.
When asked whether Viewswagen based its pricing model on other in-taxi advertising services, he replied: “Absolutely not. We’re providing real intent-based marketing, it’s more in line with Google Adwords. But for the real world.”
The future for Viewswagen
Viewswagen is currently a self-funded, three-man team based out of Chicago, but the company is hoping to spark the interest of investors in the near-future. The company estimates it will make $US260 million in revenue in its first year.
Bellefeuille says the team plans to launch some additional products later this year, outside of the ride-sharing space.
The company has also filed a patent on trip intent for advertising purposes which it believes it can also transfer to the self-driving car market, which Bellefeuille believes will soon be far more lucrative than the ride-sharing market — although that new space is still some way off yet.
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