When McLaren was offered a way to display digital advertising on its race cars, team officials worried it was just a gimmick.
The brand logo is already on the car, but this new method allows teams to display additional advertising. The logo is displayed on a panel mounted on the side of the cockpit and is visible to viewers at home through a TV camera mounted behind the driver. The displays will change throughout the Grand Prix weekend to show different advertising messages.
After seeing the technology in action for the first time, Louise McEwenMcLaren Racing’s executive director of brand and marketing said she was “shocked”.
“It was early days, so I had to be very imaginative,” she said in an interview.
“But what we encountered was not only an absolute first-of-its-kind opportunity, but one that, as a brand, underscored our desire to drive innovation on the grid. Power is in our DNA.”
The company that developed this technology seamless digitalIt is based near Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix.
After debuting the technology during practice for the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas last year, McLaren now uses the system for the entire Grand Prix weekend. Seamless said four more F1 teams will use it this season, but the company has not revealed which teams.
“We set out to create a system that is durable and authentic,” said founder and CEO Mark Turner.
“What we didn’t want was just to be there,” he said in an interview. “Performance is what really matters, and that was our mindset from start to finish. No negative impact on aerodynamics or weight.”
Early systems weighed 350 grams, too heavy for sports where the added weight impacted performance.
“No,” McEwen said. “Mark knew it was going to be a challenge, but working with our aero team, we were able to reduce the weight to a runnable level in the end.”
It currently weighs 190 grams and is 800 microns thick and 1 millimeter thin at point 8. “We use an e-paper material like the Kindle’s outer layer in combination with his TFT. [thin-film transistor] We’re helping them to be flexible,” Turner said. “This allows us to adapt to the aero surface.
“Because we want the smallest and lightest system possible that gives the team the best value.”
Despite the system’s early success in Texas, McLaren remained wary.
“Incorporating such technology ran the risk of being seen as a distracting gimmick for the driver,” McEwen said.
Advertising messages can be programmed into the system and displayed to TV viewers. Most people in the stands can’t see the ads.
“Keeping it on the driver’s side was kind of key because it would show up on the dashcam,” McEwen said.
“Last year we signed with Google,” she said. Google is the only brand using McLaren’s new system. “It’s a heavenly combination, with ads alternating between her Chrome and Android brands.”
Neither Seamless nor McLaren said how much it would cost the brand to use the system, but Google didn’t pay extra due to an existing deal with McLaren.
Turner said Seamless will work with teams to determine which sponsors will show up at that time.
“At the moment what we are pushing is contextual relevance. Depending on the specific conditions the car is in, whether it is during a pit stop or behind the safety car, there is a specific message. can be displayed,” he said.
The company hopes to expand the use of this technology, including adding the panels to golf bags. “The helmet is the next milestone we’re working on,” Turner said. “Not only do you think about the various motorsport series, but you think about the NFL.”
F1 is the main focus at the moment. “By using our system, we want teams to be able to bring in money and put it into car development,” he said.