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On Cellphones On Subways

On February 13, 2012, in Advertising, Digital Signage, DOOH, Mobile, Technology, by Tony Hymes

Paris vs. New York. Normally compared in a sort of classical vs. modern debate framed around the mentalities of the people and their respective histories. Those of us lucky enough to spend ample time in both places know that there are differences between the cultures that are inexplicably deep. Sometimes the differences are immediately obvious, [...]

Paris vs. New York. Normally compared in a sort of classical vs. modern debate framed around the mentalities of the people and their respective histories. Those of us lucky enough to spend ample time in both places know that there are differences between the cultures that are inexplicably deep. Sometimes the differences are immediately obvious, and at other times the similarities are more striking. In both cases there are major subway systems that transport vast numbers of people. In both places DOOH is slowly showing its head.

Digital screens are becoming more popular and available to advertisers from groups like CBS Outernet and JC Decaux, it is in tangent with the ever present static boards that proliferate across the transportation networks. Neither is anywhere close to enabling mobile integration into the mix, except for the odd QR code. But this is actually because, and it might not be immediately understood, but mobile phones don’t work without a signal. Scan a QR code underground and wait to get above ground to finish the interaction?

In Paris, the subway system, or the Metropolitain, has a robust cellular network underground, meaning the passengers can make calls and send texts while heading under the Seine. This does not translate into data access, as websites move at old dial-up speeds, but the phone connectivity is there. There are pros and cons.

The first issue is the “I’m bored so I will call my friend” passenger, who chats away about their lives while others are forced to listen. Though it is annoying, it is nice to be able to text someone who might be waiting for you and tell them that the train is running late, which happens a little too often (in fairness, the Metropolitain is normally very effective, and no matter what, people will always find a way to be unsatisfied).

In New York there is no reception and therefore no calling, unless you are in one of the major stations like Times Square which has connectivity. It can make for both a quiet, pleasant ride and a frustrating one if you want to check sports scores or send a text and can’t.

Whether it is determined to be good or bad, no one can deny that everyone has their phone in hand. For the business of the DOOH industry, it represents a massive opportunity for engagement with riders. The challenge is outfitting the system. In either city, companies should approach the respective transit authorities and explain how together they can build a system that would enable engagement with riders while serving as a platform to deliver important information about service changes and emergency messaging. It is going to take a long time, surely, but those phones are not going away anytime soon. WiFi would be the best immediate option, with a log-in process that can capture data about riders and redirect them to surveys and important information before giving them access to data while on the go.

Though there be differences, this is a global opportunity, one waiting to be fully tapped.

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