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McLaren to Use Digital Ad Screens on its F1 Cars



This year’s McLaren in the wet conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix

This year’s McLaren in the wet conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix
Photo: Clive Mason (Getty Images)

Formula 1 cars having the ability to change their livery while out on track sounds like a marketer’s dream and a commentator’s nightmare. Teams might replace a sponsor’s logo in a particular market or run a one-off livery to commemorate a special occasion, but they never make these changing during a race. McLaren has now taken the first step in bringing the world’s fastest billboards into the 21st century.

McLaren has partnered with Seamless Digital to bring cutting-edge digital advertising technology to Formula 1 as a part of a multi-year agreement. Starting with this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, the British team will be running a two-display system on its cars. However, don’t expect to see the McLarens turning into digital billboards just yet. The relatively small displays will be mounted on either side of the cockpit and have the capability of changing the logos displayed on them. McLaren will be using the digital screens only during Friday practice sessions from Austin until the end of the season.

Louise McEwen, Executive Director, Brand & Marketing, McLaren Racing, said:

“We are pleased to work with Seamless Digital to debut one of the most exciting innovations in digital advertising technology. Being able to rotate different brands on our cars is a game-changer in this space and we are looking forward to seeing the impact this has on the wider industry.”

One of the digital ad screens fitted to the McLaren MCL36

One of the digital ad screens fitted to the McLaren MCL36
Photo: McLaren

Mark Turner, Founder and CEO, Seamless Digital, said:

“We are delighted to be able to unveil this technology which represents the next step in the future of motorsport marketing. Being able to change branding in real-time on a Formula 1 car will give greater flexibility and value to teams and partners. Our technology enables more creative options for brands to communicate situationally relevant messages.”

“We have found the perfect partner in McLaren who share our ambition for innovation and breaking convention as pioneers in the fields of technology. We believe this is just the beginning of flexible on car branding and motor racing assets. By ensuring the technology works on a Formula 1 car we have already cracked the toughest place to innovate and are set to disrupt advertising across F1, motorsport, golf, US sports and ultimately, wider more mainstream use.”

While the concept sounds impressive, I’m not quite convinced of its real-world usefulness. Sponsors pay for the logos to be seen during the race by the hundreds of millions of viewers that Formula 1 attracts. However, the screen time for any particular F1 car is usually measured in seconds and is inconsistent. This technology would make changing logos between the weekend’s sessions a breeze, but I can’t see any team changing the logos on their cars more than once or twice during a Grand Prix.

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