Selling the air waves on the subways


One of the less endearing aspects of the fancy new subway cars that continue to take over the system is the automated public address announcements. At some point, we just don’t need to be told, at a volume far louder than necessary, that the MTA is ready to “apologize for the unavoidable delay.” In an ideal world, we wouldn’t be bombarded with “an important message from the NYPD” every five minutes either. But if one group has its way, we may soon be hearing advertisements over the subway loud speaker.

Over the last few months, as the MTA has tried to raise revenue from every available source, the agency has started to sell open space. They have sold the windows, the turnstiles and the outside walls of entire subway cars. Now, PETA, of all groups, is calling upon the MTA to sell airtime over the subway’s public address system as well.

PETA, in fact, has this all planned out, as their press release notes. They want to inaugurate something that would infuriate subway riders with a group of pro-vegetarian ads. Says the release:

Given the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) announcement that it will be increasing fares and cutting services to help meet its 2009 budget, PETA has contacted the MTA with a suggestion. PETA has offered to kick off the first-ever paid advertisements to be heard over bus and train public-address systems. PETA’s ads would feature the voices of pro-vegetarian advocates Casey Affleck, Kevin Nealon, and Forest Whitaker…

PETA points out that encouraging commuters to adopt a vegetarian diet would help them address their own financial woes, too, since vegetarians slash not only their grocery bills but also their risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancer–not to mention the high medical bills that come with treating these conditions.

“Broadcasting PETA’s ad on public transport could help the MTA’s bottom line and save passengers’ and animals’ lives,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “Commuters have a lot on their minds, and our ads will liven things up and give them something positive to think about.”

To hear the ads that hopefully won’t be appearing in the subways, head on over to PETA’s blog.

I have to applaud the pro-animal group for its ingenuity and effort here. They recognized a situation they could exploit and became, as far as I could tell, the first group to propose in-system audio ads. But New Yorkers would absolutely positively hate these intrusive advertisements.

To most of us, the subway ride is a means to end. We’re trying to get somewhere else in the city, and we do so under less-than-ideal conditions. Can you imagine how a packed car would respond to a 30-second anti-carnivore ad blaring over the loud speaker at 9:15 a.m.? I can, and it’s not a pleasant image.

Hopefully this will be one advertising idea the MTA doesn’t adopt in its efforts to raise funds. I’d take the East River bridge tolls any day over in-system audio ads.

“All infographics should have googly eyes” by flickr user arimoore.

Categories : Subway Advertising

16 Responses to “Selling the air waves on the subways”

  1. Kevin says:

    Heck no. Top of the Rock was annoying enough. We don’t need to hear automated announcements on the NTTs now. Print ads are fine since we can usually tune out visual stimuli but audio stimuli would be much harder and cause more stress for commuters. It’s just a crappy plan all around if they resort to this. Cover all the windows if you want but leave the announcements to useful stuff. Otherwise, few people will pay attention to announcements when something important comes on.

  2. Scott E says:

    Oh, the irony. I can just imagine being squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder, elbow-to-nose, on a crowded 4 train. Casey Affleck comes on the mic to tell me that “Chickens, cows, and pigs in factory farms spend their whole lives in filthy, cramped conditions”.

    So do New Yorkers who ride the Subway.

    (the “chickens, cows…” thing is a direct quote from the press release).

    • JoshP says:

      True. Does PETA know what it’s like in New York City public schools, restaurant kitchens, department stores, data centers, chinatown… (insert tourist location) ?

      It’s already painfully loud (to the point of hearing damage) in several stations, and the first thing the MTA’s customers need is silence, not *more* noise.

      How about a silence surcharge? I’d pay an extra 5¢ for three minutes of peace between 125th and 59th on the A, or an extra 10¢ for a quiet Union Square IRT platform. Heck, I’d pay an extra 5¢ to keep dancing troupes of children off the cars, another 5¢ for the a cappella groups and percussionists. While we’re making a perfect world, throw in another dime for the playing-with-phones and headphones-pointed outwards crowd.

      So here’s my deal for PETA: silence the trains and platforms described as above, and I’ll make donations with every metrocard purchase of 35¢ per ride, go vegetarian AND start working on my friends and family for the same.

  3. Peter says:

    Won’t Happen.

    The existing digital announcements, bland, unvarying and changeless are simply background noise.

    No it isn’t. If it was, we wouldn’t have heard the exact same thing 10,000 times already.

    “…We are sorry for the delay…”
    No you aren’t. If you were, you would at least attempt to make a sincere apology.

    “Your call is important to us.”
    – Go take a walk ’til your hat floats.

  4. rhywun says:

    > give them something positive to think about

    Because people *like* being berated by extremist kooks because they are making the “wrong” food choices.

    This is so awful in so many ways, the MTA will probably do it.

  5. harold says:

    It makes more sense to have visual, electronic announcements on the platform, such as they have in London, which tell you the time and how many minutes away the next train is. The technology for such text messaging exists.

  6. Adam G says:

    Augh, this is the worst idea since the $50 drivers’ license fee!

  7. cmdrtebok says:

    The announcements proclaiming that my bag or other large container can be searched by the police at any time makes me think I live in 1984.

  8. Julia says:

    NO! Do not mess with my subway reading.

  9. Duke87 says:

    Who wants to bet that if something like this is put through it will start a string of (drunk?) people vandalizing the loudspeakers to make the ads shut up, thus canceling out the revenue taken in from it by the expense of having to keep fixing them?

  10. Chris says:

    I’ll just turn up the volume on my iPod.

  11. people eating tasty animals says:

    For every dumb PETA ad I hear, I’m bringing a hamburger to eat on the subway.


  1. […] PETA Suggests MTA Play Audio Ads (Second Ave Sagas) […]

  2. […] another money-making scheme, the M.T.A. is considering selling airtime over the subway’s public address system to PETA as a way to raise revenues. [2nd Ave. […]

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