One of the foundations of marketing is to go where the customers are. In this mobile world, consumers have accepted that their phones and tablets are now fair game for marketers hoping to connect with prospects in the moment.

But is the world ready for the automobile marketing push?

Whether consumers want it or not, advertising on vehicles is an inevitability, with logistics and technology being the smallest obstacles advertisers have to overcome.

Here are the latest car-based strategies and technologies coming down the pike that you may want to consider adding to your marketing arsenal.

The oh-so-smart digital billboard

traffic-billboardsDigital billboards are nothing new; however, this isn’t your 1990s digital billboard. This takes personalization (a buzz word, to say the least) to an entirely new level.

Dannon Yogurt, for example, has been running a campaign in Canada that displays different visual ads based on four different traffic speeds.

When the traffic is slow, the ad shows a napping driver with the message: “There’s no fast way home” along with an image of their product – the DanActive drinkable yogurt.

The company even goes as far as to personalize ads based on billboard location. On the Don Valley Parkway, when traffic is slow, the ad copy reads: “It’s called parkway for a reason” while on the Gardiner Expressway, slow traffic is greeted with: “At least parking is free on the Gardiner.”

Both ads, of course, prominently display the product (DanActive drinkable yogurt).

Digital billboards know who you are

Then there’s what UK media owner Ocean has done in London. The campaign captures the license plate of the lead car stopped at a red light opposite several digital billboards. The plate is matched on a public database to the exact car make and model, enabling a car specific message to be shown on the billboard.

For example, it’s not uncommon for a driver to see a billboard say: “Hello, you in the silver hatchback.”

In Tokyo, ad agency Dentsu is working on an artificial intelligence (AI) system that will be able to instantly recognize several hundred kinds of car makes, models and years passing on the highway.

When the project is rolled out, a digital billboard could show, for example, an ad for an eco-friendly product (if several hybrid cars approach simultaneously) or an ad for a refreshing drink (if a long-distance truck is on the horizon).

This type of personalization is what marketers fight for as they segment email lists and target ads on Facebook. For years, it’s been believed that this granular level of data could only be exploited within computer screens and smart devices.

But now it seems the data has hit the road, literally.

Built-in advertising on the car itself

digital-dashboardThe personalization of digital billboards is exciting, particularly since that technology can easily be replicated across any digital signs (like at a gas pump).

But the real challenge – and huge payoff once realized – is the car itself.

Imagine if you could track the behaviors and actions of drivers just like you can with web surfers.

That kind of information would allow marketers to understand where consumers travel to, where they make frequent stops and more. This new layer of mobile would allow marketers to deliver highly relevant offers right into the car’s dashboard.

While this technology is still in the works, there are some concerns:

  • Invasion of privacy, although consumers have proven they’re willing to give away a ton of information about themselves online
  • Safety – How can marketers push a message onto a car dashboard safely without disrupting or distracting the driver?

These are valid concerns, but you can be certain that they’ll be addressed in the very near future. And when they are addressed, there’s nothing stopping cars from becoming glorified living rooms.

The push toward self-driving cars is making this future even more of a reality. If the goal is to reach customers where they are, then what better way than to be as mobile as they are?

It’s worked with phones and tablets. The car is just the logical next step.