London taxi drivers take turn as pitchmen

Updated: Jan 29 2008, 06:01am hrs
Taxi drivers here have never been shy about sharing their views. George W Bush The royals Cabbies are sure to have an opinion. But what if they start talking about Texas Hold em or a royal flush

In a promotional campaign for 888.com, an online gambling business, 375 London taxis have been decked out with advertisements for the companys website. Most cabs are moving billboards for 888, which provides online poker and other kinds of gambling.

But in 10 cabs, the marketing pitch goes further. The drivers may seek to engage passengers in conversation about poker. If customers take the bait, the drivers try to steer the conversation gently toward 888.com. Those who show particular interest may be given coupons offering free hands of virtual cardsworth as much as $10on the poker site.

Taxi Promotions UK, the agency that set up the 888.com campaign, calls its roving pitchmen ambassador drivers. Since the programme was set up, the drivers have served as informal representatives for a variety of tourism destinations and charities.

Taxi Promotions is now trying to expand the ambassador programme, creating a unit called Womad Taxis, short for word of mouth. It aims to capitalise on the growing interest in word-of-mouth advertising, which is based on the notion that consumers place more trust in something they hear directly from another person, rather than something they learn through the media.

NY Times / Eric Pfanner