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.”
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.
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.