Home Subway Advertising Coming soon: In-tunnel subway advertising

Coming soon: In-tunnel subway advertising

by Benjamin Kabak

As the cash-starved MTA looks to milk dollars out of its existing physical plant, the authority may soon begin running moving ads inside its subway tunnels, WNYC’s Jim O’Grady reported this morning. The authority, says O’Grady, has been receiving bids from companies looking to run these ads and believes these ads will help boost its ad revenue. “Anywhere there‚Äôs a dark tunnel, you could do it,” authority spokesman Aaron Donovan said said.

O’Grady has more on the latest push to find non-tax sources for dollars:

The tunnel ads would show a string of varied images that, when viewed from a passing train, would move like a flip book. A similar effect is visible in a subway artwork called Masstransiscope between the Manhattan Bridge and the DeKalb Avenue station in Brooklyn. As the D train glides by an unused station at Myrtle Avenue, painted images flash behind vertical slits and appear to be animated.

Donovan said most ideas for non-traditional ad placement come from advertisers themselves. In recent years, the MTA has permitted video on the outside of buses and ads that wrap entire train cars, like the 6 train that became a long rolling ad for Target last fall, when the company opened a store on 116th Street in Harlem.

Then there is a program called “station domination,” in which a single company plasters ads on multiple surfaces — columns, stairwells, turnstiles — throughout a subway station. Ads at Union Square Station have even been projected onto floors and walls. And now the MTA website displays ads for free credit checks and the Crate & Barrel wedding registry.

Over the past few years, the MTA has seen a marked increase in advertising revenue. Despite a recession that has hit the advertising industry particularly hard, the authority drew in $109 million annually in 2009 and 2010 and has seen that total annual take increase from $27 million just 20 years ago. The authority is hoping to realize $120 million in sales this year.

These days, ads are everywhere underground. From branded stations to fully wrapped train cars, we see commercial space throughout the system, and the in-tunnel ads will be just another source of revenue upon which transit agencies throughout the world have long relied. For a few dollars more, I’ll take it.

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eveostay March 7, 2011 - 11:30 am Reply
Bolwerk March 7, 2011 - 11:36 am

Maybe two years ago, I saw that effect on the red line in DC. It was a sports car ad.

AK March 7, 2011 - 4:54 pm

They use this on Boston’s Red Line as well and it’s pretty sweet.

John March 7, 2011 - 12:24 pm

They used to have these on the PATH. Usually car and liquor ads

ant6n March 7, 2011 - 12:32 pm

They should allow graffiti artists to point a couple of complete trains.

John March 7, 2011 - 12:42 pm

The Montreal subway had ads like that for Players cigarettes, right after the system opened for Expo ’67. So it’s a fairly old idea (though it never would have worked in NYC in the 1970s because all the subway car windows were spray-painted over).

SEAN March 7, 2011 - 12:50 pm

There’s a company called “In Window Outdoor” that does similar things with closed storefronts.

Anything you can do to generate revenue is the name of the game today.

Douglas John Bowen March 7, 2011 - 12:53 pm

PATH’s uptown leg used to hold this type of advertising (between 14th Street and 23rd Street stations).

Gary March 8, 2011 - 10:03 am

I also recall seeing these on the PATH back in the day. Which raises the question of why they no longer run. (Assuming they don’t – I can’t recall seeing one for years, but I use the PATH very rarely)

And I thought they ran the ads in other segments beside that one, but I don’t have a clear memory of where.

Nabe News: March 7 - Bowery Boogie March 7, 2011 - 1:21 pm

[…] get ready for in-tunnel advertising while riding the subway system [Second Avenue […]

Scott E March 7, 2011 - 1:50 pm

I have my doubts that this will work. PATH discontinued their in-tunnel ads because of the cost and service disruptions involved in maintaining them. Imagine the public outrage when we see the announcement that “4 and 5 trains run local between 14 St and 42 St – Grand Central due to advertisement installation between 30 St and 40 St”.

I’d much rather see better use of in-car advertising and FIND display ads before attempting this. (do the signs inside the “L” train still announce that you can now pay your fare by credit-card? Surely more profitable, and relevant messages can be put there)

Scott E March 7, 2011 - 3:01 pm

Whoops…forgot to close the italics tag after that “announcement”.

Al D March 7, 2011 - 3:45 pm

Yes they do.

Al D March 7, 2011 - 1:50 pm

Is there a metric on the ad rates at MTA v other sources? It’s been pointed out in the past that texting to Uncle Sam’s fast cash for example appears to suggest an adverising rate below market value. If in fact, MTA’s rates are below market value, raising the ad rates themselves could also boost revenue.

Marcus March 7, 2011 - 2:24 pm

The in-tunnel ad on Boston’s Red Line (in between Harvard and Central) has not been updated since early 2009. It’s an advertisement for the movie Coraline, so I highly doubt the film studio is continuing to pay for a movie whose release date was over two years ago.

DCCT March 8, 2011 - 10:31 pm

Same scenario on D.C.’s Red Line. Coraline’s DVD sales must be thriving.

ferryboi March 7, 2011 - 3:23 pm

Give the ad three weeks before it’s covered in that wonderful black soot that seems to permeate the NYC subway. Unless of course the MTA actually pays to clean the ads. Lord knows they don’t do anything to clean the walls at station level.

tacony palmyra March 7, 2011 - 4:24 pm

Better yet, stipulate that advertisers are responsible for paying for cleaning the tunnels (and adjacent stations on each side of each ad) as a part of their advertising agreement. Get some benefits out of this.

Benjamin Kabak March 7, 2011 - 4:26 pm

How do you clean video ads? These in-tunnel ads aren’t posters. They’re backlit projections.

Alon Levy March 7, 2011 - 4:31 pm

Are these going to be zoetropes, or regular posters? Zoetropes might be more expensive to install, but they’re a cute technology and could attract more eyeballs (=higher rates), and are almost certainly less annoying than regular advertising.

BrooklynBus March 7, 2011 - 5:37 pm

Do you think these ads will really be effective and advertisers will continue to fund them? The reason I say this is that in the dozens of times I rode past Myrtle Avenue, I think it was only once that the train passed it at a constant speed, so it actually looked the way it supposed to. All the other times, the train would stop and start or go to slow to see the ad in motion.

For this to work, there can’t be continued delays. If it works great, but I have my doubts.

Benjamin Kabak March 7, 2011 - 5:39 pm

You’re highlighting one station and a major switching point. The vast majority of tunnels that could support projection ads or in-tunnel ads don’t feature necessary slowdowns like the interchange ahead of DeKalb does.

BrooklynBus March 8, 2011 - 2:48 pm

There also has to be room to install it. I don’t know what is involved, but the one at Myrtle Avenue is fairly deep. I’m assuming that there is a slim design that is available these days and could fit in the tunnels.

Christopher March 7, 2011 - 8:39 pm

Just took a bus in LA this afternoon. One difference I noticed was a video screen on the panel behind the bus driver showing ads and other content. A bit like those “Captivate” screens you see in elevators. If those could generate some revenue, I wouldn’t mind seeing them in NYC.

Edward March 7, 2011 - 9:20 pm

Saw those when I was in LA last year, wondered why NYC doesn’t have the same. The TV sound is very low and unobtrusive, and can also be used for service updates and such. Heck, on many routes it would be better than having to listen to some ghetto queen get into a cell phone argument. But of course this being NYC it would cost about $40 billion and take six years to install 9″ monitors on buses,.

tacony palmyra March 8, 2011 - 11:02 am

Much closer to home, these are now installed on all the new PATH trains. They display a specially-branded NBC news reel, along with ads.

cjs March 7, 2011 - 10:19 pm

New York already has a subway zoetrope…the only difference is that it’s a work of art, rather than an ad:


John Paul N. March 7, 2011 - 11:06 pm

That is the “Masstransiscope” referred to in the post. I’m not sure if the video is still there, but I recently saw a short documentary on its restoration just outside the Transit Museum Grand Central annex.

MTA projecting $120 million in ad revenue for 2011 :: Second Ave. Sagas May 6, 2011 - 3:37 pm

[…] and the Bryant Park stop. With ad-covered turnstiles already here, we may be to look forward to in-tunnel ads as well. Share Tweet Categories : Asides, Subway […]

John February 10, 2015 - 1:26 pm

This is too old. Check out echo light system. A new way for advertising in tunnels not only 10 sec. But for then whole travel time inside tunnels..

Henry April 13, 2015 - 5:03 pm

The new technology for tunnel advertising is “Echo Light System”. This is not run by LED for 10 or 15 sec. but for the entire length of the tunnel. It will project media content on the tunnel walls, and will generates million of dollars for metro system. this system is easy and maintain and can be installed on the train.
please visit http://www.theonetimes.com and look for echo light system.


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