Electric vehicle charging stations could be the next ad screen: Marketer's Brief Podcast

By March 19, 2019Advertising
Charging station Credit: Electrify America

One of the drawbacks of owning an electric vehicle is how long it takes to charge one. While new technology is cutting the wait, the most advanced chargers still take about 12 minutes to load 180 miles worth of power into the vehicle.

But one of the organizations paving the way for an EV future is trying to make sure drivers make good use of that time, which could emerge as a new advertising opportunity.

Electrify America— which is overseeing a 10-year, $2 billion investment in zero-emissions vehicle technology and awareness—has struck deals to install chargers at retailers like Target and Walmart. When a driver fills up, they can share their smartphone number, and get charging updates while they shop inside the store. “As you shop you will be able to adjust your charging activity accordingly,” says Richard Steinberg, Electrify America’s senior director of marketing.

On the latest edition of Ad Age’s Marketer’s Brief podcast, Steinberg describes how the charging stations might emerge as a branding opportunity. “We are in conversations with all of our site hosts [like Target or Walmart] about trying to serve up some key messaging, whether through our 15-inch display on our chargers or in our app—which will launch soon,” he says, noting that ads could be used to lure people inside the store to get deals. Asked if other brands outside the retailers could also take advantage of the screens, he says: “It is too soon to know what kind of interest we will have,” but adds, “there are various sources of ad revenue we are looking at.”

Formed in 2016, Electrify America is a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen Group. Its creation stems from the automaker’s legal settlement with government regulators in the wake of VW’s diesel scandal in which it admitted to installing devices on cars to cheat on emissions tests. The organization is building a nationwide network of charging locations expected to number 484 across 42 states by July.

According to the terms of VW’s court agreement, Electrify America’s awareness campaigns must be brand-neutral. The group earlier this month named Eleven of San Francisco as its agency of record as it begins a 30-month, $62 million marketing effort.

On the podcast, Steinberg previews the campaign. He says it will attempt to get consumers to overcome EV fears by referring back to previous technological breakthroughs once seen as foreign, but now commonplace. “We want people to think about EVs in the exact same way,” he says.

Also, don’t look for a lot of preaching about environmentalism. “We are not trying to have that environmental rallying cry, even though that it is important,” he says. “We are trying to make these cars seem as a 100 percent viable alternative to what the gasoline power car would offer.”

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