Advertising Game: 100 London Cabs, What Would You Do?

Written by Martin Lucas

Picture the scene:

The founder of a £500 million ladies fashion company comes to you and wants you to create something captivating for London black cabs, except they won’t end up as black cabs because of the brief you get given:

100 London Black Cabs


Redesigned to grab people’s attention. Like this effort by Marc Jacobs:


Your goal is drop seeds in people’s minds so they remember the brand and shop on! It’s 100 cabs, it’s a lot, a great chance to win!

What would you do?

Where the brain normally goes is the most creative spectacular thing we can think of and then reverses that and goes super conservative.

It begins something impractical like this:


Then you think, no, that’s too much and something like this arrives:


It’s not black it's blue! Yay, oh wait, that’s a bit sh*t isn’t it? Yes, it is.

Somewhere in the middle is the nirvana you need. The challenge is what you need or better yet who you need to react to this brief. Let me help you along with your ideas.

Three things that matter

  1. The target market

Who is the market you're targeting? In this case it is a core marketplace of 16-25 year olds who love this brand. Yet where advertising can go awry is when they try to understand a target market in too much depth and come up with stuff like this:

They only use Snapchat

They strongly like Justin Bieber

They dislike Orange Juice

They are Vegan

They don’t enjoy phone calls

When you go too far, you end up defining not simply a target market, you are actually ending up defining an individual, it takes the thinking too far and you end up over complicating and missing the point of how to ignite a target market (like this example). It’s easy to cut the head off the snake; to solve this you can borrow from behavioural science and understand that any advert has one simple goal:

To be in the middle of the decision making process related to - in this case - clothes shopping.

If your advert addresses the shopping gains and needs of your target market then you are good to go, that’s what matters, what those millions of target people do is immaterial if you just understand what causes them to act to buy this brand vs this brand. Simples.

  1. The call to action

What do you want people to do? That’s what a call to action is and what we need is super simple.

We want to grab their attention and drop a seed in their mind to remember the brand and go shop for a thing or two! That’s it, nothing more complex, people remember what grabs their attention and in this case the opportunity is the design.

You have a young audience, they want different and you have to factor in where the advert is going to be placed. In this brief you have 100 taxi cabs, they will be moving around, not static like say a billboard. What matters here is pattern recognition, our brains are preprogrammed to keep us safe and they are primed, very well primed.


You are primed to know the sky is blue with some white so when your brain detects something different it sends a signal to your conscious mind and you miraculously see a bird - plane - hot air balloon - sumptuous sunset. If nothing different emerges then you don’t really look at the sky, the brain is all about efficiency and safety and a plain ‘normal’ sky is not a factor.

In London most cabs are black, like most buses are red and cars are generally a plain colour. What that leaves us with is patterns, not coloured like the sky, not grey like buildings and your nirvana would be something that grabs the attention of your target market more than any other age group. What would you do? I’ll share what I suggested at the end.

  1. Brand Font

Using that sky example, the neuroscience - really new discovery - is what they call fillers, it is how our brain digests so much visual data all day everyday, it accepts the fillers like a plain blue sky and only reacts to things that are not normal. We know the target market, we are thinking about design and what is left is the seed to drop in the mind of our audience. The design will stop people in their tracks to consciously check out what they have spotted and where do you want their eyes to go?

That’s right, the brand and its font AND its colour. Which colour may indeed depend on the design but you can eliminate white and light blue because it’s a bad neuroscience colour when we are in motion because it’s the sky, it’s the fillers, we are primed to reject it so even though the design could be epic, the font is where you will drop the seed in their mind to remember the brand or not.

Side Note:

‘When we are in motion’ briefly pausing on this point as it is super interesting. You see when we are wandering around our fillers are different, the world is like our background but if we were searching something then the colour options changes. For example blue is a great colour for medicinal purposes, next time you are in a chemist, check out how much blue you see. It's safety, help, support in the context of medicine, you are primed for this so you hunt it, making blue a good colour. It’s all contextual. Cool, eh!

The only thing that matters in the end is the brands logo, colour and font.

What do you do?

One last chance, have a concept? Know what you want to design for 100 black cabs to hit your brief? What colour will the font be and why?


What I suggested was a ladies camouflage design, more pinks than dark greens in the design. The design would be so the camoflage is matt finish with a bright shiny gloss black font logo. The pattern recognition machines that are our brains can't help but spot the discord and pay attention. We search for the conformity we know - the black colour of the cab - and where do we find it... the logo! That's how to grab attention and then focus the eyes (and brain) on the logo, thus dropping the seed in their mind.

Science is Cool!

Science is in a state of flux, the more doors we keep opening about human behaviours and the engine of the brain then the more we know what makes advertising work (or not). This is why I love science, it holds more answers today than it ever could yesterday let alone what it could tell us tomorrow.