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Time to Tune in to Mazda Radio or Honda Radio or…

by Roger Lanctot | Nov 27, 2013

Harman’s Aha shook up the automotive industry this week with a video demonstrating its vision of the future of in-vehicle advertising. The video (available here: http://youtu.be/uU925H7xDgc) highlights the collaboration between Aha and Placecast to deliver a location-enhanced advertising experience in the car.

The video shows ads popping up in the head unit using the same HMI of music or radio station play (album art + thumbs up) with an audio call to action.  Regulators may grumble, but the interaction that is enabled is no more complex or challenging than changing a radio station or CD.

The video shows the results of a test, already implemented and in the field, running through December 20 with what Aha execs describe as a light schedule of stations and impression loads.  All OEM and aftermarket implementations of Aha have the experience enabled including more than 50 models from 14 OEMs including the Ford F-Series, Escape and Fusion; Honda Accord and Odyssey; Subaru Forester and Impreza; Mazda 3; and  Porsche Cayenne and Boxster.

Aha says more than 2 million vehicles on the road are capable of displaying the Aha application.  The big challenge seems not to be getting into cars, something for which Aha has demonstrated an acumen, but rather getting consumers to tune in.

Aha is not alone in seeking to redefine the advertising experience in the car.  Other candidates include Clip Interactive using audio content recognition and Roximity (available via Ford SYNC) which offers some location awareness.  Aha is alone in enabling a center stack display of the offer with interactivity - something previously thought to be anathema.

Airbiquity and others have shown similar concepts.  TeleNav, in particular, is focusing on location-enhanced advertising on mobile devices with plans to bring the experience into the head unit.  But Aha is first to the dash.

Clearly an interactive advertising offer will not attract consumers, so the video is an obvious business-to-business message for car makers and their suppliers.  What Aha has enabled, though is a template for transforming the advertising experience in the car.

The automotive industry has become almost completely unmoored from the radio dial.  In the process, a door has been opened to a new content and media engagement opportunity that can be location-enhanced and listener-focused.

Aha is pointing the way toward a third path – away from Google and Apple – for automakers to create a more intimate engagement with their customers.  With Aha, automakers will be able to enrich the driving experience by giving drivers control of their advertising experience in the car.

Users of Aha will ultimately be able to pay for no advertisements or specify the time, type and frequency of the advertising they receive.  All is now possible along with the further added value, to the car maker, of extracting vehicle data for even closer customer engagement.

The Aha demo does raise questions regarding ad triggers and frequency and the potential for driver distraction.  But these concerns are manageable.  Most of all the demo suggests that there is no turning back now that the industry can see what is possible. 

All that remains for Aha, and its parent Harman, is to surrender the so-far futile branding effort around Aha and embrace a white label market strategy.  Aha can become a default infotainment platform in the car, OEM-branded, and with a customized business model and HMI suitable to each OEM.

Whether Harman will embrace this opportunity and reposition Aha away from its branded-button-on-the-screen positioning to a more all-encompassing in-vehicle interaction platform remains to be seen.  Now that Aha has demonstrated that the Starbucks-discount-offer-as-I’m-driving-by-Starbucks proposition is possible, it is time to consider the broader implications.

Aha will never be Google, Apple or Facebook, but it is the perfect antidote to these pretenders.  Google, Apple and Facebook are all seeking to move into the automotive industry and carjack its customers.  Aha is showing a way for OEMs to stay in the driver’s seat.  That is something we can all give a thumbs up.

 

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