Connected Cars: The Next Internet Frontier

With this month’s Apple Watch launch and the advent of Amazon’s new Dash Button ordering for common household items, the Internet of Things has truly arrived for U.S. marketers.

Another leader in the parade of IoT brands is AT&T. The company added 800,000 connected cars to its postpaid device portfolio during the fourth quarter of 2014. Connecting America’s cars is a significant step in the growth of the U.S. Internet and will change the way we experience our vehicles in the future.

AT&T has now brought Internet connectivity and a “more connected driving experience” to several major auto manufacturers, including BMW, Nissan, Ford and Tesla. This service raises the bar on innovation from the driver’s seat.

Some of the features have obvious benefits to marketers as well as car owners. For example, online streaming of radio services like Pandora, Spotify and Slacker offer a new venue for commercials. Smartphone apps that can locate your car, start your car, honk the horn or unlock the doors may also provide new in-app advertising opportunities.

Other benefits are valuable – or just plain cool – all on their own:

  • WI-FI: Turns the vehicle into a Wi-Fi hotspot
  • TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT: For real-time traffic alerts from the web
  • BROWSE: Browse the Internet via an in-vehicle touch screen
  • DIAGNOSTICS: Such as tire pressure, service issues and fluids
  • TELEMATICS: Crash notification, stolen vehicle tracking and roadside care
  • FAMILY TRACKER: Notifies the owner when a young driver exceeds a preset speed limit or crosses over a predetermined boundary line

Today, marketers need to take a step back and consider wearables, connected vehicles and any other connected objects as new tools in their communications arsenal. To build a truly integrated and relevant marketing program, all possible and available touchpoints should be in the consideration set.

The connected car adds yet another compartment to the direct marketing toolbox. I can imagine a time when – for example – a service issue notification will come with directions to the nearest dealership or even a local mechanic. And what about your car asking, “It’s 88 degrees outside – interested in a cool drink at the 7-11 coming up at exit 43?” Certainly, in-car browsing would indicate an opportunity for a very specific type of mobile display ad. As far as in-apps go, the sky is the limit for creativity.

And that’s really my point: we are entering a golden age of mobile advertising and mobile direct marketing. We’ve limited past marketing efforts to the constraints of small screens, mailboxes, email bodies and banners, but now it’s time to think outside the box and inside the car.


Mark Capps, Executive Director, HackerAgency