Zipcar Can Now Track How Many People See Its Rolling Ad Campaign in Seattle and D.C.

Wrapping cars in data sensors

Zipcar is rolling out a campaign in Seattle and Washington D.C. that blends an old-school advertising technique with new technology—it's wrapping ads around cars and tracking how many people see them.

The company partnered with Wrapify, a San Diego startup that pays drivers to cover their cars with branding and data-tracking technology. Each car is equipped with sensors that feed live analytics to clients so they can see where their ads appear on the road, and how many people can see them. (Wrapify uses telemetry data from the car to track drivers' real-time location on a map, and pairs it with anonymized data from other sources to understand how many cars nearby see the message.)

Think about it as a new way to drive offline traffic.

"At Zipcar, we utilize a variety of innovative marketing strategies to reach potential members who are interested in joining a mobility solution that fits their lifestyle," a Zipcar spokeswoman said. "In addition to robust digital, content and field marketing programs, Zipcar is currently testing Wrapify in select markets to complement our out-of-home advertising."

Wrapify founder and CEO James Heller sees his service as a bridge between out-of-home advertising and digital marketing.

"When I looked at the out-of-home industry and the way it's measured and tracked in terms of impressions or attribution or anything, it's really a shot in the dark and a pay to play," he said.

Wrapify, founded last year, is quickly expanding. The company recently opened a New York office, with 35,000 drivers signed up across 25 U.S. cities. Drivers are often paid between $400 and $600 a month, depending on the campaign length, mileage and how much of the car is wrapped.

Here's a video from Wrapify that explains how it works:

Wrapify even measures offline reach with CPMs, much like tech giants Facebook and Twitter do online. A recent case study conducted by Wrapify showed CPMs cost around $1 each.

For one client, PetCo, 4,000 miles of driving logged nearly 8.8 million impressions at $1.13 eCPM (effective cost per mile). A campaign for TriNet that totaled 24,000 campaign miles delivered 66.5 million impressions with an eCPM of $1.08.

Heller wouldn't provide details on the exact cost of the campaign but said on average, a 25-car campaign on the road for 12 weeks would cost about $1,600 per car, per month.

The partnership with Zipcar, a pioneer in the sharing economy, makes sense to Heller. If the campaign is successful, he said it could expand to other cities on a larger scale.

"It's kind of like the old and the new converge," he said. "Zipcar has been on the market for a while, and it's cool to see them adopting this."