As September 11 dawns, the city takes a collective breath. It’s always a little quieter, a little more somber around New York as we all think back to 2001 when nothing made sense.
This year, the MTA has, perhaps coincidentally, released an update to that ubiquitous” anti-terrorism campaign. “Si ves algo, di algo,” our MetroCards exhort us in Spanish. “If you see something, say something.”
In their press release, the MTA is touting is “the next generation” of the See Something/Say Anything ad campaign. No longer content with bragging about the 1944 people who bothered to say anything, the MTA is again pushing the message that unattended packages should be viewed suspiciously. Korey Kay & Partners, the ad campaign contracted to product the creative, has released a few television commercials (here, here and here) and new placards and print ads.
The ads are very reminiscent of the first generation placards. Again, the MTA is focusing on something — a box, a backpack, a suitcase — that is alone on a platform unattended. No one is around to notice it; no one is around to claim it as his or her own. It’s minimalism at its finest.
“The security of our customers is our paramount concern,” MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot Sanders said. “These new ads remind our customers not to be complacent about what they see around them. They also reinforce the important role our customers play in ensuring the safety of transit users throughout the entire MTA system.”
The MTA also informs the world in their press release that they’ve licensed this catchy awareness slogan to 37 other transit networks around the globe, and in fact, the authority earned a trademark in the phrase last December. But is it an effective slogan?
As I look at the ads and think about the responses the MTA has — or hasn’t — gotten as a result, I wonder if they’re driving the point home hard enough. It’s not easy to associate a forgotten bag with a potential terrorist weapon. We see forgotten bags on the subway all the time, and so far in New York, none of them have blown it. Collectively, we know it can happen; we’ve seen it, on TV and in the papers, in Madrid and London. But those images seem remote to us in New York City where, seven years after the World Trade Center attacks, our city has that false aura of impermeability around it again.
The MTA can’t use scare tactics to convince its customers to report any potential package. With a vast, open system filled with easy access points, due diligence on the part of the riders is a necessity for any anti-terror efforts. But perhaps it’s time to refresh the old “If you see something, say something” refrain. It’s old hat by now, and if it’s one thing New Yorkers manage to look past, old hats are it.