Lycos to Roll Out Animated Ads on Taxis

Web portal Lycos Thursday said it will begin running 12 different animated signs on the tops of four taxis in Boston, beginning in January.

Those signs, designed by Boston-based agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, will change as the vehicles move from block to block. An on-board GPS-based tracking system will determine the taxi’s location and deliver appropriate messages to it.

For instance, as the taxi drives through the city’s financial district, “it will display live stock quotes, like the top ten stocks of the day,” said Kim Patrick, who heads the Lycos account at Hill, Holliday. “By the airport, it would run travel weather information. In shopping districts, shopping information.”

Somerville, Mass.-based wireless media firm Vert, Inc. provided the technology behind the displays. Spending was not disclosed on the campaign, which marks the year-old startup’s first client job.

It’s not the first time that big-city taxis have found their way into portals’ marketing strategies. Market leader Yahoo in October began including Palm IV PDAs in some New York City cabs to showcase the portal’s wireless capabilities.

But it’s a radical step for Waltham, Mass.-based Lycos, which thus far has used fairly traditional advertising media. Hill, Holliday, which has handled the Lycos account since mid-1999, developed the portal’s “dig deeper” television, print and out-of-door campaign, which began in October.

“In addition to traditional media channels, we were looking at some expected places,” Patrick said. “Vert approached us while we were drawing up that plan, and we decided it would be a great fit with … what they’re doing. It really did seem to fit in with what we wanted to accomplish.”

Like Hill, Holliday’s earlier work, the taxi campaign is geared toward positioning Lycos as a full-service Internet destination.

“With [the ‘dig deeper’ campaign,’] we are trying to build buzz and show Lycos moving beyond search and more as an Internet portal that has these exciting areas of content for the passionate user,” Patrick said.

“At first there were a lot of questions … about how it was going to work and if it was gong to be approved by the taxi commission,” she added. “But once all those were resolved, we decided to give it a go.”

The ads currently are slated to run through February, although Patrick said the agency would consider continuing it and expanding the campaign to other cities. However, moving elsewhere would be contingent on Vert making its system available in other regions: currently, the company’s technology does not support cities other than Boston, though Vert said it is looking at possibilities.

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