Dozens of Birmingham black cabs are to be fitted with new roof-top advertising screens – which will also provide ‘critical’ public information alerts.
As well as promoting businesses which pay for the exposure, the new signs will also be able to display real-time breaking news, weather updates, emergency and traffic advice as well as post details of large public events.
Birmingham City Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee approved the venture today (Wednesday, September 19) following a Dragons’ Den-style pitch from Wedooh, the company behind the product.
They will be launched in the city from October 1 with 50 Hackney Carriages fitted within a fortnight and then up to 100 in total in the near future.
Addressing the committee Nick Smith, CEO of Edgbaston-based Elonex which is a part of Wedooh, said: “This is a new innovation for Birmingham which will benefit all stakeholders; businesses, the city council, residents, taxi drivers and visitors.
“It is much more than just an advertising channel.
“They will highlight events, deliver vital public information to the local community, increase the feel-good factor for residents and have a positive impact on the Birmingham economy.”
The committee had refused two similar applications – by different companies – in 2008 and 2016 and did express concerns this time around.
Reservations were raised with the latest bid including the nature of the adverts, whether they would be too bright and if they would distract other motorists.
Wedooh took over Brightmove Media which had been operating ‘taxi tops’ in London for four years.
They declared the units had been extensively safety-tested and had never been associated with an accident in the capital or whilst been piloted in the Middle East and operated in America.
They assured the signs would only face pedestrians and not other motorists, that the illumination levels were controlled whilst pledging that cabs which were already liveried with advertising would not be able to have a unit as well.
“You are not going to get pimped up taxis,” said Charles Jepson, managing director of Wedooh.
He also clarified that screens would not be displaying full videos saying the quickest moving image allowed was comparable to a ‘falling snowflake’.
The adverts will be restricted by council licensing policies which do not allow the content to be political, sexual, promote alcohol or drugs without prior approval of the authority.
Mr Jepson was keen to highlight the potential for real-time alerts.
He said: “It is something we’ve pushed in London and would love to push in Birmingham.
“In a day where tragedies are happening we can switch our adverts off immediately and tell people to avoid certain areas and so on. I think it is really critical.”
Drivers are also set to benefit from the move as they will receive 25 per cent of the revenue from adverts.
The income, which drivers in London say is enough to cover their insurance, will be very welcome in Birmingham where Hackney Carriage drivers are under financial pressure from Uber, private hire drivers licensed by different councils and the Clean Air Zone proposals to charge high-polluting vehicles.