Eyetease: the story so far

Richard Corbett, founder of Eyetease
Richard Corbett, founder of Eyetease

As part of our online re-launch, here at SME we will be providing a case study each week from the vast spectrum of small businesses in the UK. To kick things off, this week we are taking a closer look at the recent winner of the ‘Next Breakthrough Exporter’ prize at this year’s HP Go Global Awards, innovative media and technology company Eyetease.

If you spend much time in London, you may have seen a curious change regarding the city’s black cabs in recent years. The digital rooftop advertising system ‘iTaxitop’ now takes pride of place on many of the taxis, providing advertisers with the ability to update media on hundreds of taxis remotely within seconds and target ads by time, location and weather! Elegant though this solution may be, it certainly wasn’t simple to execute – we caught up with founder and CEO of Eyetease Richard Corbett to hear about the hard-fought case for this new disruptive media.

Corbett established the company when he realised that many advertisements he was seeing out and about around London were almost unbelievably inefficient and irrelevant – some were poorly positioned, with ads for strip clubs being posted right by family attractions. His idea was to create an advanced outdoor media format for advertising that was time and geographically specific, to ensure that the right messages were delivered to the right people at the right place.

But here is where the story takes an unexpected twist – back in 2010 there were laws against advertising on the roof of the London black cab - adding anything to the roof would be viewed as impacting the intrinsic look and feel of one of London’s oldest icons. Corbett had to launch a campaign to get the laws changed, and central to this was his idea of “building a new icon.”

“The Shard is on the same skyline as Saint Paul’s. There was an old icon, and then we built a new icon. That’s what we wanted to do for London’s black cabs with iTaxitop,” says Corbett.

Eventually, following 4 years of testing, certification and lobbying with government bodies, Corbett and his team were given the green light to advertise on the rooftops of cabs and they are forging ahead on the innovation front. Eyetease has another innovative media product called ‘CabWifi’, which turns each vehicle into a high-speed wifi hotspot for passengers to use while travelling in the back of the cab. The Eyetease system is the world’s first mobile public wifi device for taxis, with a unique ads-for-access user experience.

In the future, Eyetease is planning to expand. Over the coming months the company will be looking to grow its research and development team. “We created two world-class technologies on a shoestring budget,” says Corbett, “now that we have money behind us, who knows what we can achieve!”