Home MetroCard Mind ‘The Gap’ ad on select MetroCards

Mind ‘The Gap’ ad on select MetroCards

by Benjamin Kabak

The Gap is the first advertiser to purchase space on the front of New York’s MetroCards.

In an effort to squeeze money out of every available surface, the MTA announced in July an initiative to sell ads on Metrocards. With the potential to make up to half a million dollars per ad campaign, the cash-strapped authority saw this venture as a potential revenue maximizer, and this past weekend, the MTA unveiled the first such cards carrying an advertisement for The Gap.

The cards themselves, seen above, come as something as a shock to those of us used to the familiar gold background with blue lettering. Gone is anything identifying the thing as a Metrocard, and in its place is a coupon for The Gap. In honor of the clothing giant’s remodeled flagship store at 34th Street and Broadway, just possessing and presenting the Metrocard at any Gap in the city nets its owner a 20 percent discount from October 10 through November 18. These cards are the first in over 15 years that don’t say Metrocard on the front.

“Opening up the front of MetroCards to advertising gives the MTA a new source of revenue,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. “We will monitor public acceptance of ads going forward to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with use of the transit system. There is no reason why the MTA shouldn’t put every resource it can toward helping its fragile finances.”

According to the MTA, The Gap cards will make up around 10 percent of the monthly Metrocard sales and will be available at station booths and vending machines at 10 stations near the new flagship store. Those stations include Herald Square, Penn Station, Union Square, Grand Central, Columbus Circle, Times Square, 59th/Lexington, 86th St. on the East Side and the E/M stop at Lexington — essentially all of Manhattan’s most popular stations. The cards are inserted randomly into the preexisting supply of the regular blue-and-gold cards in the vending machines, but station agents can sell ad-supported cards with rides until supplies run out.

Interestingly, The Gap’s reasoning for using the Metrocard as an ad platform contains some interesting contradictions. “Because the MTA MetroCard is an iconic element of every New Yorker’s life, it felt like an appropriate vehicle to promote the opening of our newly remodeled flagship store at 34th and Broadway,” Chris Gayton, Gap’s senior director of media, said. “We’re excited to take part in this historic moment as the first advertiser on the front of the MetroCard.”

Of course, by buying out the entire front of the Metrocard, the flimsy piece of plastic is hardly iconic. In fact, it’s even easier to lose in one’s wallet because nothing on it other than a magnetic strip identifies it as a Metrocard. It’s just a generic fare payment card with some Gap branding, and nothing about it screams “everyday New York life.” This problem will be solved in the next full-card ad campaign, likely to launch in December of January. The MTA will print ad-supported cards with the word “MetroCard” on the back in the white space near the top. This is designed to “remove any doubt a customer could have about what he or she was purchasing.”

Still, the MTA can’t complain about the new revenue stream, and in fact, MTA officials say the calls from interested advertisers keep pouring in. “Since we first announced that we would accept branded MetroCards, our phones have been ringing non-stop with inquires,” Paul J. Fleuranges, the MTA’s Senior Director of Corporate and Internal Communications, said. “In the coming months, MTA customers will see other branded cards in the system. Like The Gap, advertisers are looking to showcase their logo and provide customers with a call to action. We look forward to seeing how creative advertisers can get with the card.”

On another note, the site went unexpectedly dark last Wednesday for a few days, and more than a few of you wrote in concerning my disappearance. My grandmother passed away on Wednesday evening, and I took a few days off to spend some time mourning and remembering her with my family. She was an avid reader of this site and always loved seeing where I’d end up next. Thanks to those who wrote in, and thanks for your patience over the past few days.

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Someone October 8, 2012 - 8:00 am

This might be a good idea, but that means that the space on the back of the MetroCards, usually used for travel trips, is eliminated. That means that more people will probably fall on the stairs or something.

Jerrold October 8, 2012 - 2:20 pm

Oh, travel TIPS, OK.
(I was trying to figure out what you meant.)

Someone October 8, 2012 - 9:59 pm

Oh yeah. I forgot to read before I published the comment.

The travel tips are intact; the MetroCard logo is not.

BoerumBum October 8, 2012 - 9:50 am

Ben – Please accept my condolences on your loss.

Jerrold October 8, 2012 - 9:53 am

BEN, my deepest condolences to you and your family.

SEAN October 8, 2012 - 5:40 pm

Same here. My regards to you & your family.

alek October 8, 2012 - 10:39 am


I am very sorry to find out that your grandma passed away. My deepest condolences to you and your family for this tough time.

Andrew October 8, 2012 - 11:01 am

Ben, condlences to you and your family. Wishing you all the best.

Stu Sutcliffe October 8, 2012 - 11:57 am

My condolences, Ben.

Chicken Underwear October 8, 2012 - 12:01 pm


and Ben, I am sorry for your loss.

nycpat October 8, 2012 - 12:03 pm

My condolences.

Matthias October 8, 2012 - 12:54 pm

The GAP design is much more visually pleasing than the standard MetroCard. It’s clear that a lot more effort went into its design.

Skip Skipson October 8, 2012 - 1:04 pm

Very true the design is visually pleasing although, I’m probably saying that seeing the gold metrocard design all the time

If more companies decide to take advantage of metrocard advertising, expect a niche collectors market*

Just viewed Chicken Underwears link!

*I expect a minuscule market, where metrocards are collected for posterity, simply because you could probably ‘complete’ your collection of Metrocards by picking them up off the platform floor 🙁

Skip Skipson October 8, 2012 - 12:55 pm

My condolences.

Someone October 8, 2012 - 1:56 pm

Ben, my condolences go to you and your family. Wished you the best

Jerrold October 8, 2012 - 2:34 pm

Ben, P.S.

At least it happened in your adulthood, even though it still is an extremely sad event.

It’s nice to still have any grandparents when you’re a grownup.

I had all four of my grandparents until I was 20.
The last of the four died when I was 37.

Someone October 8, 2012 - 6:39 pm

My maternal grandfather is dead. (He was 80.) But my 3 other grandparents are alive.

Stu Sutcliffe October 8, 2012 - 3:07 pm

I couldn’t resist passing this along. Check out Bob Diamond’s comments. He may have been the only person the Post could find that was willing to make a snarky comment:


Matthias October 8, 2012 - 3:40 pm

“Putting ads on it just denigrates its credibility as a financial document. What’s next? Putting Ronald McDonald on the dollar bill next to George Washington?”

Haha, what a worthless quote!

SEAN October 8, 2012 - 5:53 pm

The CTA & WMATA have produced special order fare cards for special events. In the MTA’s case, those cards have rotating ads on them. Perhaps this could fill part of the MTA’s finantial GAP? Oh I doubt it. LOL

BrooklynBus October 8, 2012 - 3:51 pm

You are correct. They called me, but I wouldn’t say anything bad so I wasn’t quoted.

Brian October 8, 2012 - 11:01 pm

My deepest Condolences Ben, may she rest in peace.

LLQBTT October 9, 2012 - 9:01 am

So then my Gap Card will say MTA MetroCard on it? Then how will I know which card is which? Ridiculous. Oh way, let e use my AmEx platinum, no wait it acutally my Qdoba card to pay for my threads!

(Ben, my condolences on the loss of your grandmother.)

BrooklynBus October 9, 2012 - 10:23 am

Ben, I’m sorry about the loss of your grandmother.

Alon Levy October 9, 2012 - 10:42 am

So sorry for your loss, Ben. Hope you’re feeling okay.

Paulb (nj) October 9, 2012 - 11:48 am


My condolences as well. I hope your grandmother had a long and fulfilling life. I bet she was extremely proud of you. (My grandson,the tv commentator.)

With MetroCard ads come confused straphangers :: Second Ave. Sagas October 9, 2012 - 3:11 pm

[…] we enter an era in which ads decorate the fronts of MetroCards, the law of unintended consequences has taken over. Without familiar markings or arrows leading the […]

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