Home Subway Advertising MTA rejects WFP service alert parody ads

MTA rejects WFP service alert parody ads

by Benjamin Kabak


A few weeks ago, the Working Families Party sent out an email about a planned ad campaign aimed at Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Using parodies of the MTA’s ubiquitous service advisory signs, the WFP wanted to bring attention to the fact that Bloomberg had made some lofty campaign promises concerning transit in New York City but had failed to live up to those promises so far. Using the subway bullets to take jabs at the Mayor, the WFP proclaimed “OMFG” and “WTF?”

When these ads hit my inbox, I had a feeling the MTA would reject them. They resembled the service advisories, and the MTA would allege that the signs would confuse riders into thinking the authority itself endorsed the views expressed by the WFP. It is unsurprising, then, to read today that the MTA has rejected these ads on exactly those grounds. The agency will forego between $25-$50,000 and may incur a First Amendment challenge. But the ads, they say, are obscene.

The Daily News’ Pete Donohue has more:

Transit officials rejected the spots because the acronyms imply obscene language that many riders may find “offensive, improper or in bad taste,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. The ads also look too much like the real thing, using subway-line logos to form the suggestive acronyms, according to the MTA. Some riders might believe they are real authority bulletins, officials said – or that the authority agrees with the political message.

The Working Families Party was looking to spend $25,000 to $50,000 for a four-week run in the transit system, party spokesman Bryan Collinsworth said. “We were really hoping to put some pressure on the mayor,” Collinsworth said. “We think he controls a central piece of the puzzle.”

…Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna said the campaign was simply off track, in part because the mayor speaks out daily about the need for more transit funding. “Their anger on this issue is misdirected,” LaVorgna said. “They should be directing their anger to the state, which has yet to come up with a successful funding source for the MTA. They should be talking to the entity that controls the MTA, which is the state and the state Legislature.”

Although LaVorgna is right in telling people to direct their ire toward state officials, Mayor Bloomberg has not tried to deliver on his

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13 comments

Think twice March 31, 2010 - 12:16 pm

These flyers are a riot. Parody/satire subway flyers have been around for a while, but this one is the most clever. Even if you see these from the corner of your eye, the rollsign spelling of WTF? and OMFG have folks doing a double-take, give a smirk, and upon closer inspection, some righteous indignation. Funny and rousing, a great combination.

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AK March 31, 2010 - 12:58 pm

Any First Amendment challenge is likely to fail because the MTA properly rejected the ad on a content-neutral ground, namely, that they are easily mistaken for official communications (which satisfies a significant, if not compelling, state interest). The “obscenity” argument is completely unreasonable, but unless MTA rejected it because it was in some way critical of the agency itself, a legal challenge isn’t going to fly. Some of you may have seen that Mayor Bloomberg advertised on buses during campaign season.

Unlike most transit authorities, including Suffolk County Bus (see: Newsday, 22 May 2009, article about Suffolk County rejection of a pro-gay marriage ad, in which Suffolk County Attorney Christine Malafi stated, “When you put something on a county bus it necessarily looks like it’s endorsed by the county. We try to keep it plain vanilla on the buses.”), the MTA permits political advertising on buses/subways/platforms.

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Tim March 31, 2010 - 1:12 pm

People are that upset about $100/mo unlimited cards? $1200 yr to get most anywhere in the city, compared to the annual costs for insurance/gas/maintenance/car payments is a freakin’ bargain. Even if you buy a used civic and hold onto it for 10 years, you’ll maybe breakeven, but most likely not.

I’m not even counting the monthly MNR pass I have to buy, either.

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Boris March 31, 2010 - 1:24 pm

Note that the WFP asked its members for donations to pay for these ads. At the time, I noted on my Facebook status that my willingness to pay would be relative to who is named on the ad ($5 for Bloomberg, $20 for “State Legislature”, and $50 if Shelly Silver and the Fare Hike Four are specifically named).

I guess the donations will now be returned or used for different-format ads.

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Josh March 31, 2010 - 3:46 pm

WFP may as well stand for “Worthless ****ing Party”. All they do is complain and not propose any solutions. (“Tell the Mayor to fix it” is not a solution.)

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Red March 31, 2010 - 4:10 pm

WFP is not in the business of coming up with solutions. It is in the business of getting its people elected. Politicians certainly don’t think WFP is worthless. Ask Bill de Blasio, Debi Rose, and Tish James.

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Josh April 1, 2010 - 11:25 am

Well, forgive me if I don’t consider that to be a worthwhile end goal.

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Al D March 31, 2010 - 4:13 pm

In fairness, Mayor Mike did make promises to address transit issues, and I think that his saying recently that he does enough and that the MTA should not follow through with its cuts is far from the intent of the campaign promise. WFP is well within its rights in my opinion, however their campaign should look less like an official MTA publication especially one that may send an unsuspecting rider to say Rockaway Park when they really wanted to go to Pelham Bay Park!

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Jerrold March 31, 2010 - 4:58 pm

I think that those ads are hilarious and very creative.
I just love any kind of biting satire.

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Jerrold March 31, 2010 - 5:06 pm

Also, imaagine if somebody takes the first one seriously and then waits around for the T train?
Just think of how many decades he will have to wait!
(Remember, even when Phase 1 is complete, it will involve the Q train, not the T train.)

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Alon Levy March 31, 2010 - 5:45 pm

Decades? You’re quite the optimist.

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What We’re Reading: 3/31/10 | Upper Green Side March 31, 2010 - 7:39 pm

[…] Can probably expect massive delays on the WTF for your morning commute […]

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wordpress?ggad???? « ???? April 1, 2010 - 12:03 am

[…] MTA rejects WFP service alert parody ads :: Second Ave. Sagas […]

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