Adam Uhrynowski
Adam Uhrynowski

The Future of (Auto)Mobile Advertising

Growing up, all I wanted was a black Pontiac TransAm that spoke to me and helped me fight crime through a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of criminals operating above the law. What I got was a 1985 Peugeot 505s with cigarette burns on the canvas seats and a tape player that didn’t have a reverse button. Cars have come a long way since the “forward-thinking” days of Knight Rider. Cars not only speak to us, they can drive for us, give us directions, and show the kids some Dora the Explorer while en route to a ski trip in Vermont. And this is just the beginning.

Like it or not, your car is becoming more intelligent. With the integration of advanced technologies, your car may know more about you than you know about yourself. Automakers are so committed to equipping their vehicles with the technology users (and brands) want that Ford, GM, and BMW have all opened research labs in Silicon Valley to scout out new technology and keep ahead of trends.

Below, we’re taking a look at some of the coolest technology that’s out there now, how marketing and advertising plays into this brave new world, and we’re making predictions on where all of this is heading.

The Future is Now

My in-laws recently purchased a Ford Edge equipped with Microsoft Sync, and as I needed any excuse to get out of the house and away from the confidence succubus that is my mother-in-law, I took it upon myself to “learn” how to operate Sync. While it does a great many things, I was most impressed by the smartphone integration. Soon enough, the car was reading me my texts, playing my C+C Music Factory channel from Pandora, and giving me a list of how the stocks my father-in-law invests in were performing (I now understand why I wasn’t given a dowry). While I sat in amazement at how great all this new technology was (as well as the car reading this text from my significant other: “My mom is just drunk. I’m sure she’s sorry she called you a putz. Will you come in now?”) I realized a car is no longer a place where people disconnect from the world. People want to stay connected, and car manufacturers need to stay on top of the tech trends in order to market cars to consumers.

Ford isn’t the only one getting into the technology game. GM announced they’re experimenting with technology that will let you update your Facebook status or check Facebook messages through voice commands. Toyota’s Entune system lets you find restaurants and make reservations through Open Table or purchase movie tickets through And if that weren’t enough, you’ll soon be able to “friend” your car on Twitter so it can keep you up-to-date on how it’s doing. (Change the brakes, your fuel economy is down, replace the front tire, you drive like a jackass, etc…) Clearly, having the latest technology is a desire for most car owners, and keeping them safely connected is a priority for car manufacturers. And with all this technology comes great information flowing in and out of the car.

Your Car: The Billboard

Anyone who’s spent time in New York City in the past five years surely understands the increasingly grating experience of sitting through your cab ride accompanied by local television personalities talking about the weather while simultaneously reminding you to watch their shows and buy various products via the in-cab television. Trust me, marketers would want nothing more than to get inside your car and serve you a plate of warm advertising via that nifty touchscreen placed on your dashboard. With all that information you’re sending off into the world via your web searches, e-mail, and social networks, expect advertisers to try and get a hold of some of it when it comes from your car.

  • Oil companies would love to know that you’ve just plugged a 500 mile trip into your GPS. They’d love to direct you to their closest filling station to help you get there too.
  • Your radio is almost always tuned to the classic rock station which means ticket brokers would pay a premium to inform you about the Crosby, Stills, and Nash concert happening at the local stadium.
  • The shock sensors in your 4×4 have been having a field day during your trip to Joshua Tree. Outdoor gear companies would foam at the mouth to put you in the crosshairs of their targeted advertising with this information.
  • Did you send an e-mail from your car again? And did it contain the word “meeting” more than three times? You’re obviously doing business from your car, and the nearest hotel would love to know that a savvy business man who is in need of a rest is about to drive past their establishment.


It’s these types of pinpointed information that can attract advertisers. It’s been said before, “How you drive is a reflection of how you live your life,” and your behavior behind the wheel will give those advertisers trying to reach you a great idea of who you are. If advertisers can leverage this information responsibly, then we may see more relevant, informed, and dynamic advertising showing up in automobiles very soon.

Our Predictions

Despite living under high-tension wires and being cursed by a shaman in a New Orleans back alley, I’m not clairvoyant. In fact, based on my latest prescription for contacts, I’m not really normal voyant. But I’ve been in the advertising game long enough and been in several cars in my life which makes me an absolute expert in making predictions about the future of advertising in automobiles. Here are some of the things we can expect to see from car manufacturers and advertisers in the next decade.

  • Your GPS will link up with an advertising service that’ll let you know when you’re in close proximity to various stores via voice instructions. (“It’s just about lunch time and Outback Steakhouse is up ahead on the left in .3 miles. They’re having a special on cheese fries.”)
  • By allowing these advertisements into your car, manufactures can subsidize free technology upgrades such as placing GPS units in lower-end cars.
  • By linking up your car to a Twitter account, it’ll automatically announce when you’ve hit certain milestones. (@AdamsCar: Just hit 50,000 miles on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA, or @JonsEscape: Just completed a long trip from Boston, MA to Baltimore, MD.)
  • Based on the make and model of your car, advertisers will be able to serve you ads based on the general demographic for similar car owners. High-end restaurants can promote their businesses to people driving luxury automobiles while cheaper food options can serve ads to economy-class cars, thus creating geo-located targeted advertising.
  • A flying car. I realize this isn’t advertising related, but Back to the Future II was over 20 years ago, and the dream of owning a flying car is no more realized than it was in the mid-80s.


What are your predictions for the future of mobile (literally) advertising?



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