Home Subway Advertising MLB/TBS in-car video ads a first for Transit

MLB/TBS in-car video ads a first for Transit

by Benjamin Kabak

Jorge Posada's likeness greets straphangers on the 42nd St. Shuttle. The wrapping and video screens are part of the MTA's increased push for more advertising dollars. (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/TBS)

The 42nd St. Shuttle now features in-car video advertising. (Photo via MTA)

The MTA’s fleet of shiny new R160s all come equipped with video screens on the FIND displays. Originally intended to show a rotating mix of MTA announcements and advertisements, these screens have served only as self-promotional vehicles for New York City Transit. This week, though, the MTA announced the introduction of video advertising to its favorite marketing guinea pig, the 42nd St. shuttle.

As part of an effort to milk every last dollar out of potential advertising opportunities, the MTA in conjunction with TBS and Major League Baseball unveiled 10-inch video screens in a fully-wrapped shuttle car that allow TBS to air its ads, sound-free. While the authority declined to reveal how much TBS had paid for the video screens as well as a fully wrapped shuttle train complete with seats resembling those found at a baseball stadium, the authority drew in over $127 million in ad revenue last year. That total is up from nearly $89 million in 2004, and the authority has only begun to tap into its branding potential.

“The MTA earns more than $100 million per year from sales of advertising space, mostly through traditional print media, but this traditional advertising has suffered as a result of the recession,” MTA Chairman Jay Walder said in a statement. “Our uncertain finances mean that we have to think creatively to maximize the value of our physical assets. One way we are doing that is by creating more dynamic advertising opportunities.”

TBS and Major League Baseball have branded one of the 42nd St. Shuttles in anticipation of the upcoming baseball playoffs. Mariano Rivera presides over subway benches made to resemble stadium seats. (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaquia/TBS)

Shuttle wrapping has become de rigueur lately, and in fact, the 6 recently received a wrapped car of its own. The video screens, however, mark the first time that moving images have been used for the purposes of in-car marketing campaigns.“The MTA is creating new, dynamic advertising opportunities utilizing the latest technology to both increase ad revenue and communicate better with our customers,” Walder, in a buzzword-laden statement, said. “Inviting advertisers to “wrap” entire trains and the use of digital displays will generate a buzz among customers and advertisers alike.”

For the first few days, the in-car video screens will simply promote the upcoming baseball playoffs on TBS while star players — Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera from the Yankees; Cliff Lee from the Rangers — decorate the outside of the cars. Once the playoffs begin, however, TBS says the video ads will include highlights from the previous night’s games and “up-to-the-minute information” on match-ups to come. “As people are commuting home and making decisions on what to do with their evening, Turner will reach millions of potential viewers in a creative way with messages about the excitement of the Postseason,” MLB Vice President Tim Brosnan said.

While executives can spew on-message quotes, baseball fans are the ones who are latching onto the ads. “It’s too bad I can only take this train one stop,” Anthony Polini told The New York Times. “I’d do this in my room, but my wife wouldn’t let me.”

Of course, while New York City Transit is celebrating an advertising first for them, City Room reminds us that PATH had video ads installed in 2009, and subway systems in cities such as Boston, Buenos Aires and Madrid have used video screens for years. The MTA says the agency’s budget problems will lead to more ad opportunities. “Customers in a transit environment can expect increasing levels of sophistication in advertising,” Aaron Donovan, agency spokesman, said.

Advertising will now appear on the outside of LIRR train cars. (Photo via MTA)

The video screens on the shuttle — sans sound — aren’t the only new frontiers unveiled this week. The authority also set the first commuter trains with external display advertising on the rails. Fifty of the LIRR’s M7 cars are displaying ads along the bottom as many IRT subway cars do today. The ads, says the authority, are visible to those boarding at stations as well as drivers and pedestrians who pass the train. If this three-month trial is successful, the LIRR fleet may see an uptick an ads. The MTA, however, did not say by what measure “successful” will be judged.

Over the years, subway advertising, whose revenues were once called a balm for hurt minds, has become more intrusive. Moving images will do nothing to stop that forward march, and the MTA says it is going to explore 3-D images and in-tunnel advertising as well. As much as we may bemoan — or look forward to — the themed subway cars, the MTA’s economic situation demands it.

After the jump, a video describing the new advertising initiatives and a behind-the-scenes look at the way MTA crews wrapped the shuttle and prepared the new video screens.

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Ian September 22, 2010 - 6:42 am

The MTA has been wrapping the shuttle for a few campaigns over the past few years, but it hasn’t seeped out to the rest of the system yet. What’s stopping them?

The good thing about the shuttle is that riders only spend 10 minutes on it, instead of an hour or so on lines that people use for their commute. The themed cars are cool for a short amount of time, but would riders spending an hour or more with the ads become immune to it?

Edward September 22, 2010 - 9:38 am

Become immune to what? A silent 7″ video screen? I see more annoying and intrusive things every day on my subway commute (pissy smelling bums, teens fawning and practically fornicating with each other, iPODs playing music THIS LOUD…you get the idea).

A tiny video screen showing baseball players is the least of my concerns.

Al D September 22, 2010 - 10:05 am

Has it been determined if the MTA ad revenue is at market rates or is it less? For example, some ads you’ll only see in the subway, like Dr. Z or some fast cash scheme with the guy loosely dressed like Uncle Sam telling you to text some number. This suggests to me that the ad rates in the subway are below market and should be increased.

John September 22, 2010 - 11:37 am

Aren’t they kind of their own market? What other ads do you think they should be compared to?

Al D September 22, 2010 - 2:25 pm

I don’t know as I’m not in advertising/marketing sales. But I would guess that there is a LCD such as potential views. For example as compared to those huge highway billboards that advertise ciggy’s, ipods, jetblue and so on. There just seems to be so much untapped potential here, like a the subway wall on a platform. Heck, MTA would even get an added benefit of (finally) having those walls cleaned so the ad can be affixed.

BrooklynBus September 22, 2010 - 1:44 pm

If the MTA is trying to “to milk every last dollar out of potential advertising opportunities,” why are there virtually no ads inside the buses, at least in the outer boroughs? Perhaps the rate charged is above “market rates” and should be lowered to attract more advertisers?

Benjamin Kabak September 22, 2010 - 1:48 pm

Just because they’re trying doesn’t mean they’re doing a good job. I’m sure you know that as well as the rest of us.

BrooklynBus September 23, 2010 - 7:22 pm

The phrase “Trying to milk every dollar” implies they are doing a good job.

Adam B. September 22, 2010 - 1:17 pm

It looks like in one of the images the train route display has been replaced by the ad. That is a loss for passengers, if it is the case.

Edward September 22, 2010 - 1:42 pm

Train route display? It’s the Times Square-Grand Central Shuttle. It makes two lousy stops, so what’s to display?

Benjamin Kabak September 22, 2010 - 1:46 pm

There’s no train-route display in the 42nd St. Shuttle. Nothing was lost. The cars with train-route displays have built-in video screens that ought to be showing ads.

The subway just got a lot more attractive | River Avenue Blues September 22, 2010 - 1:31 pm

[…] you’re riding the 42nd St. shuttle any time soon, be on the lookout for Yankees. As Ben writes on Second Avenue Sagas, MLB and TBS have started an ad campaign using not only advertising painted on the cars, but also […]

jfh September 22, 2010 - 1:36 pm

when is there going to be RAB wrapping on a train?

Nabe News: September 22 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle September 22, 2010 - 1:38 pm

[…] advertising is now a reality in the newer trains of the subway fleet.  According to MTA Chairman Jay Walder, the organization […]

Edward September 22, 2010 - 2:12 pm

Curious to know if they take the shuttle trains out of service for a day or so to apply the ads. The shuttle consist is usually made up of the same three-car sets (for example, car #1940 in the photo has been on the shuttle route for years now). Does the MTA apply the ads at night while the trains are on layover, or do they take them to a yard and replace the consist for a day or two with other, similar IRT cars? Just curious.

nycpat September 27, 2010 - 6:10 pm

No, they do it in the barn at the yard. Used to be Jerome/Moshulu. Now I think it’s Livonia/New Lots.

Kevin Walsh September 22, 2010 - 3:28 pm

Fewer trains, higher fares, more commercials…

Kai B September 23, 2010 - 12:08 am

Yes, but it could be far fewer trains and far higher fares – Less for more is only relative.

TBS strives for a better postseason broadcast | River Avenue Blues September 23, 2010 - 2:01 pm

[…] TBS this year is taking its commitment to the game seriously. As I detailed yesterday on Second Ave. Sagas, TBS and MLB have engaged in a groundbreaking advertisement campaign in the New York City subways […]

Sara Nordmann September 24, 2010 - 12:07 am

The subway in Rome has video screens which, strangely enough, seemed to be solely for the purpose of entertaining commuters. They showed funny home videos of cats flushing toilets, silly kids, etc. I found myself thinking, “Why isn’t this used for advertising?”

I know some people that would HATE this sort of in-your-face advertising, but I find it to be non-offensive and even occasionally entertaining. However, a whole-car Dr. Zizmor ad is something I’d rather not see.

Interviewing Jay Walder: Labor relations and revenue sources :: Second Ave. Sagas November 30, 2010 - 1:05 am

[…] and the bus environment but also raise some money for the transit system. My favorite one was the wrap on the train for TBS with the television screens. I think that’s a great example of breaking down some barrriers. We’re bringing about […]


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