Rideshare and taxi ad startup Firefly acquires Strong Outdoor’s out-of-home ad business

Firefly is expanding its ad business in New York City by acquiring the out-of-home business of Strong Outdoor, as well as by becoming the advertising partner for fleet operator Sally.

Firefly launched in 2018 by offering Uber and Lyft drivers a digital display that they could place at the top of their vehicles, making extra money by running ads that can be targeted based on geography, time of day, demographics and more. It expanded into advertising on regular cabs last year, an expansion accelerated by the acquisition of Strong’s digital business.

Firefly co-founder and CEO Kaan Gunay explained that with this new deal, the startup is also taking control of Strong’s non-digital taxi-top advertising.

The plan is to eventually transition those ad units to digital, but he suggested that the timing will depend on how quickly the ad business returns. After all, out-of-home advertising is a lot less appealing when everyone’s stuck at home. In the meantime, Gunay said he’s happy to sell traditional ad inventory as well.

He also said that even though Firefly’s business slowed with the pandemic, he’s confident that the company’s more targeted digital approach can bring new customers to taxi-top advertising (brands advertising with Firefly in New York have included Puma, Dunkin’, Truly, Colgate, Stella Artois, 7-Eleven, Papa John’s and Postmates). And Firefly is still expanding and investing, as shown by this acquisition.

Asked whether these moves into traditional advertising put Firefly at risk of becoming just another taxi advertising business, Gunay said, “Absolutely not.” He said Firefly is still very much a technology company, while also pointing to the appeal of traditional taxi-top ads, which he described as a “New York institution.” He added that these deals give Firefly a 42% share of that market in New York.

 “In today’s attention economy, relevant marketing is not just beneficial — it’s absolutely vital,” said Lisa Evia of Havas Media in a statement. “Firefly offers us the opportunity to reach our audience in a way that feels personal and impactful, while still feeling integrated into the consumer experience and local environment.”