<body> Public Ad Campaign: Zip Car and the Advertising Dilemma
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Friday, January 9, 2009

Zip Car and the Advertising Dilemma

Some of the topics I choose to address may seem a little far off base but negotiating a common public space is a complex issue with many facets. The removal of outdoor advertising from the public environment is negotiated everyday by our interaction with the market and our streets.

Zip Car is a rent by the hour, membership based rental car company throughout the United States. They offer cheap access to cars in major urban centers and have become a smart way to "own" a car in a congested and expensive city environment. Social responsibility and the removal of cars from the road is part of their mission statement.

It turns out they are paying attention to other urban concerns as well. At the end of a customer survey I came across an interesting multiple choice question.

How would you rate the value of the following services? from High-low.

A car with advertising on the exterior or interior (whether electronic or traditional) offered at reduced rates

Reduced rates subsidized by advertising on zipcar.com (e.g. you would see ads when you went to make a reservation)

Instead of just placing advertising on the cars and charging the same rates, Zipcar is offering the public an opportunity to weigh in on how much driving around an advertisement is worth in savings.

In an era of advertising overload this is a good lesson in economics. If zipcar reduces rates after selling advertising space, they will get nothing out of the deal. Instead they are presenting themselves as socially responsible, and in many ways integrating themselves into the public identity by allowing the public to make decisions for the company. They see profit from their services rising by possibly not selling ad space. How novel.

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