Cabbies to sell gift of the gab

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The Independent Online
" 'Ere, guv'nor, have you heard the one about the German electronics company, London cabbies and mobile phones?" It is the latest stunt in an advertising-mad world and it is coming to the back seat of a black cab near you.

Siemens, the German electronics company, plans to pay London's cabbies to use their notorious gift of the gab to promote to their passengers the company's latest model of mobile phone.

About 100 cabbies will be given a day's training on Friday in the art of dropping information about the firm's latest phone into conversation. They are then due to start their sales pitch on Monday for a four-week trial, earning more than pounds 50 a week.

The scheme, known in the business as "madvertising", could be extended across the UK to other products if it proves successful.

A spokesman for Siemens' advertising agency, Impact FCA, said yesterday: "This is just a fun way of getting to the consumer. Cab drivers are considered friendly and already have a good banter and rapport with their passengers.

"If a conversation is already going, the driver could say something like, `Did you see the football last night? Well I missed it, but I kept in touch with the score by phoning my wife for updates on my mobile phone'," he said.

The driver would be expected to make it clear that he was getting paid to endorse the product.

The driver would then impress his fare with facts and figures available about the Siemens phone, and might even hand a model through the glass partition to show passengers.

He said the drivers would not be receiving commission payments if their fares then bought mobile phones.

However, the plan could well run into opposition from the Metropolitan Police's Public Carriage Office, which governs London's taxi trade.

Impact FCA said it was "in negotiations" with the Public Carriage Office about the proposal and was confident it would be given the go-ahead.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said no formal application had been received and added drivers were not allowed to act as agents for advertisers.