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Cash Cabs

By David Boyer

On the Web, in bathrooms, around our buses, right next to this article-- ads are everywhere and we're pretty much used to it. So maybe you haven't noticed what's going on in and about our city's taxicabs. Advertisers--including the Gold Club, Eddie Bauer, Planet Hollywood, the Bay Guardian, local restaurants and national chains--have.

"Our brokers believe we get a tremendous amount of exposure and name recognition through the taxi ads," reports Robert Zolly of Fred Sands City Properties. "It's become a big thing. At first, we just reserved [ad] space for three months. And now that that time is up, we're actually in competition [with other advertisers] to get more space."

Advertising inside and atop cabs is nothing new, but with a planned increase in the number of cabs outfitted with signage and the unflagging demand for space among advertisers, there's going to be a lot more where that came from.

After all, it's a moneymaker. Not including their you-print-our-receipts-we'll-let-you-advertise- on-the-back-of-them arrangement with the likes of CBS News, Yellow Cab, San Francisco's largest taxicab company, stands to generate more than $1 million in the next 12 months through ad sales. And according to the SF representative for the Vegas-based Taxi Tops, which manages sales and maintenance of the ad space, "Yellow Cab gets the majority of the money; they make out really well."

Currently, the sentiment among the guys and gals who, on average, clear a hundred bucks for every 10 hours of driving seems mixed. Some care, some don't and others just want a piece of the action.

"Tourists like it," said one driver who asked for anonymity. "And Yellow Cab's making a lot off the ads. But they're raising our 'gate fee' while the fares are staying the same. It's kinda unfair."

When asked to consider a product placement from Starbucks, he responded, "Drivers would like that. Whether it's an advertisement or not, we still need the cup."

Consider it done.

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From the March 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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