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Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Billboards have long been fixtures on the sides of highways and the radio dial has been a permanent staple of the automobile dashboard to cater to the most captive audience in cars — the driver. But those advertising avenues are going to shift as new forms of media compete for the attention of drivers who will no longer need to keep their eyes on the road.

The future of in-vehicle media: Media companies are already looking for ways to take over devices, surfaces and airtime in self-driving cars as human behavior on the road changes. "How cars are presently advertised to will have to change dramatically," said Dan Jaffe of the Association of National Advertisers. "No longer will these ads be able to focus primarily on the drivers' perspective."

How things will change

Billboards: The billboard industry says self-driving vehicles will only make their billboard ads more valuable.

  • "If drivers become passengers, they would still be aware of the roadside signage. Maybe more so," said Andy Sriubus, Chief Commercial Officer at Outfront Media U.S., which is a major provider of billboards. "In fact, we would be able to add better engaged creative to boards which would normally require more of a person's attention than a driver could spare."
  • Billboards with connected geo-fences and mobile-integrated campaigns could be more effective at sending a message than the current static views that can be seen while driving at 60 mph, he added.

Radio: Broadcasters are working with automakers and the designers of internal dashboard technologies in Silicon Valley, Detroit and abroad to make sure the radio dial doesn't get lost in a sea of apps and touch-screens. They want to ensure they can take advantage of the new mobile connectivity in cars to enhance listener engagement with radio. Radio is also an important way of communicating public safety information to mass audiences.

  • The National Association of Broadcasters is trying to educate automakers about the reach of local radio stations, which have 265 million listeners every week with 93% of Americans listening at least once a week, according to Nielsen.
  • Auto execs are also making sure they are getting in front of broadcasters. Ford and Avis Budget Group (which recently signed a deal to manage Waymo's fleet) have given keynote addresses at recent NAB gatherings.
What's next
  • Radio platforms are banking on listeners tuning into their favorite on-air personalities and relying on stations for news and information, regardless of how that content is delivered.
  • "It doesn't really matter how it's delivered or in what environment, it's about what is being delivered to them — actual content," said Michele Laven, iHeart Media's President of Strategic Partnerships.
  • Still, questions remain about whether video ads create safety concerns, or if interactive ads raise privacy issues, ANA's Jaffe noted.

Go deeper

By the numbers: Where the earmarks are wanted

Expand chart
Data: House Committee on Appropriations; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is being targeted for the largest collective earmark request in the country, according to a detailed breakdown of overall requests released by the House Appropriations Committee.

Why it matters: House appropriators are trying to balance bipartisan momentum for infrastructure investment with "pork-barrel" spending's checkered political history. The data dump is an effort to provide transparency for what are now termed "community project funding" requests.

Democrats open to user fees for infrastructure deal

President Biden sits Thursday with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as they discuss his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some Senate Democrats are open to paying for a compromise infrastructure package by imposing user fees, including increasing the gas tax and raising money from electric car drivers through a vehicle-miles-traveled charge.

Why it matters: By inching toward the Republican position on pay-fors, some Democrats are bucking President Biden's push to offset his proposed $2.3 trillion plan by focusing only on raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

Progressive legal advocacy group spinning off from sponsor

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A leading progressive legal advocacy group is spinning off from the sprawling dark money network that seeded it, the group tells Axios.

Why it matters: Demand Justice's decision to separate from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a "fiscal sponsor" for scores of largely left-wing organizations, will provide the public with its first detailed look behind the curtain of the influential progressive nonprofit.