Black is the new green
Published 24 April 2020
There are very few OOH opportunities that can deliver the combination of high city-centre audience reach and iconic brand placement, in the way that taxi advertising does; these are the predominant reasons why brands put taxis on their media schedule.
However, since the arrival of the hybrid TXe black taxi in London, we have seen a number of brands choose taxi advertising because the channel now offers a ‘green’ solution, and for many brands this is either already extremely important, or is growing more so.
The advent of the TXe cab represented a watershed moment for Londoners; black taxis account for 20% of the NOx emissions in London – there is no doubt that having more TXes on the road (and fewer diesel cabs) will improve the quality of the air we breathe. Historically our campaigns have been on diesel taxis, but this has rapidly changed - hundreds of TXe drivers have already joined our media fleet. Ubiquitous sees this vehicle as the future of taxi advertising and we’re significantly invested in maintaining and building on the number of electric cabs that are available for brands.
Now that we are talking about taxis that are better for the environment, why not broaden our ambitions? What else we could be doing to turn the iconic black cab green?
Towards the end of last year, our Ops team started testing biodegradable vinyl, to assess its suitability for the exterior of hard-working, rain-or-shine, black cabs. This is important because currently, the type of vinyl used by taxi campaigns goes into a landfill - nobody at Ubiquitous is happy with this, and no matter how good the UK and EU regulations are, a sticky fact remains: plastic takes centuries to degrade. So, while we wait for a suitable biodegradable option to be available, the Ops team set about finding an alternative solution to landfill.
After conversations with the local authority that collects waste for Ubiquitous, they discovered that the council simply contracts-out the waste management to a third party, but under that agreement, just a limited number of waste solutions are available – only landfill for vinyl. So, they took it up a notch and spoke directly to Veolia (the contracted provider) and guess what? They do offer a better solution for vinyl disposal: ‘waste-to-energy’ incineration. So, we quickly struck a direct deal with Veolia and committed to this greener strategy.
What is ‘waste-to-energy’ incineration? Simply put, it’s a high temperature burn of vinyl products that results in a zero-emission, zero-landfill output; the energy is cycled into power for the local community and the waste ash is recycled as road surface aggregate. The waste-to-energy option solved the landfill issue immediately and is a commitment by us that puts a tick in the ‘green’ column for black taxi advertising.
To double down on that tick, we also needed to address the issue of diesel emissions from the classic TX taxis in our fleet. Carbon emission is a big topic – the Mayor and TfL have aggressive targets to improve air quality and would like all public transport to be ‘zero emission’ (as would other councils across the UK). But for black taxis, many of which are privately owned, this is a slow evolution, even despite the attractive financial incentives put in place for cabbies to decommission their diesel cabs and switch to the TXe.
So, in the meantime, what solution can Ubiquitous offer to brands, to balance the environmental impact of their classic black taxi campaign? Create an offsetting programme.
This turned out to be a quick and easy win - for as little as £1,000 brands can off-set the diesel emissions from a 4-week, 400-taxi advertising campaign; that’s a small price to pay and can be rolled into an existing programme or can be invested by Ubiquitous on behalf of the brand; it can even be promoted on the campaign itself.
So, there we have it – three ways in which we have made it possible for brands to ensure their taxi advertising investment complements their CSR commitments: TXe taxis, zero landfill (as standard on all campaigns) and carbon off-setting.
We’re proud to have achieved our goal, and in doing so, to have created a new OOH opportunity: Iconic black taxi advertising - now available in green.