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New kind of advertising to light up Buffalo’s taxicab wheels

These wheels don’t go round and round.

Or at least they are designed to look like they don’t.

Buffalo will be the first city in the country to roll out advertising on taxicab hubcaps, launching a product its designers hope will spread to New York City, Las Vegas and, eventually, around the globe to London and Dubai.

“I do think Buffalo represents an interesting and an international market, with the proximity to the falls,” said Daniel J. Brunell, president and CEO of Street Media Partners.

The hubcap covers will glow at night using power generated from the car’s movement. They also are also designed to stay upright when the car is moving. But the lighted hubcaps won’t flash, Brunell said.

The revenue generated by the lighted hubcap covers will keep cab fares affordable, Brunell also said.

In addition to serving as ads, they will give an extra measure of safety for travelers entering and exiting the cabs, as well as bicyclists peddling by, he said.

The advertising costs about double what a sign on top of a taxi would cost, or a “few hundred dollars,” per cab every month, Brunell said.

The product doesn’t have a name yet, but patent applications have been filed.

Liberty Cab, Buffalo’s largest taxicab operation with 140 vehicles in its fleet, will begin sporting hubcap ads for McDonald’s Premium McWrap sandwiches in the next week. The hubcap covers will feature the McDonald’s logo, and a panel advertising the McWraps will be placed on lower sides of the car, between the wheels.

Street Media, a Florida-based company, approached Buffalo’s Liberty about the hubcaps a year ago, said Liberty Cab President William G. Yuhnke.

“I fought for Buffalo,” Yuhnke said. “A creative class is looking at Buffalo for the first time.”

Street Media needed a city where the weather was varied to test the product. The company also liked Buffalo’s proximity to Canada. Brunell also happened to have a staff member from upstate New York.

But the company was mainly drawn by Yuhnke’s reputation, Brunell said.

“You have one of – if not the – best taxi fleet owners in the U.S.,” said Brunell. He commended Yuhnke for his relationships with his staff and the city.

All of the product tests for the new hubcabs have already been done, including road tests over 2.5 million miles, according to the company.

The Common Council and Mayor Byron W. Brown just gave their approval for a 45-day trial.

“It’s great to bring new technology to Buffalo, where it’s been warmly received,” Brunell said. “Not every city has the foresight to be the first one.”

The printing for the hubcap covers and panels is being done at Underground Wraps in North Tonawanda, and Brunell said he would like to use the company for rollouts in other cities, too.

Though McDonald’s is a national chain, a local franchisee is contracting for the advertising, and Brunell said he hopes other local companies will see the benefit of advertising on taxis.

The company has permission to enter about 66 new markets, and the hubcap covers – or “softly lighted orbs,” as they are marketed – will pop up in Washington, D.C., next.