Home MetroCard For Sale: MetroCard fronts may soon have ads

For Sale: MetroCard fronts may soon have ads

by Benjamin Kabak

Ads could soon begin appearing on the front of your MetroCard.

Everyday, millions of New Yorkers run a flimsy piece of plastic through a prickly card reader as they head to and from work, school and play. Since the middle of 1997 when the gold card made its debut, these MetroCard have looked the same — a logo on front and an ad or PSA on the back. My current card urges me, tirelessly so, to say something if I see something.

Now, though, the MTA, in an effort to milk some more dollars out of the MetroCards, is willing to change the front. For the right price, the authority will accept advertising for the MetroCard fronts. “Millions of New Yorkers carry MetroCards with them everywhere they go, and use them multiple times a day,” MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota said in announcing the move today. “For those with a message and a desire to reach millions of people in a novel, attention-getting way, there is no better way to advertise.”

The MTA is billing this as a relaunching of an advertising program, and as such, they have unveiled new rates. Depending upon the number of cards purchased, the authority will charge between 18 and 51? per card for those who wish to utilize the back of a MetroCard. They expect to realize between $25,500 and $450,000 per ad campaign. While rates for the front were not released, the MTA said such deals would be “offered at a premium.” Ads that include a Transit-sponsored campaign will be 20 percent off.

It’s tough to see this as anything but a positive for an agency searching for cash. I could care less about the sanctity of the MetroCard. It’s hardly iconic, and in a few years, it’s going to be replaced anyway. Plus, most of us already carrying advertisements for whatever company sponsors our credit card bonuses or the banks that issue our debit cards. So we’ll be bombarded with one more ad in the subway, and the gold and blue card may look a bit busier on the front. It’s the price to pay.

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Joe July 18, 2012 - 3:37 pm

Why don’t they just change the back? The PSAs are basically worthless.

Joe July 18, 2012 - 3:38 pm

Also, in that mockup, it looks like the back is changed, not the front. Where did that picture come from?

Benjamin Kabak July 18, 2012 - 3:42 pm

They’re making both the backs and fronts available for advertisers. The mock-up is an old MetroCard that used to have an ad. It came from Transit.

SEAN July 18, 2012 - 3:51 pm

Ben, maybe this is too obvious, but shouldn’t one of the advertizers be Subway?

JDH July 18, 2012 - 4:19 pm

This is a great idea. I’d love to see an interesting design for the front. I remember when they had Zagat reviews on the back of the cards. They should bring those back as well!

jros July 18, 2012 - 6:44 pm

my wife has always said that “Outback” ads should be plastered all over the insides of buses…. then maybe wouldn’t leave the bus using the front door!

Duke July 18, 2012 - 7:09 pm

Ugh. Ew. Wrap trains in advertising and plaster it all over every spare square inch in the stations you can find for all I care, but if it’s on something that has to go in my wallet and in my pocket, now it’s invading my personal space. And, constantly carrying the thing around, it starts to feel like being host to a parasite.

If I ever come into possession of a MetroCard with an ad on it, I will be making every effort to specifically avoid patronizing the offending business.

John-2 July 18, 2012 - 8:54 pm

Some of the lower-priced chain hotels have been selling advertising on their room key cards for years, usually for nearby pizza parlors or other types of restaurant chains that might interest people in the hotel rooms. Pretty much the same concept would apply here, though it would be up to the MTA ad sales people to make some sort of connection between their business and the times that people are using their Metrocards.

Vinny From Brooklyn July 18, 2012 - 11:32 pm

I love this as it just made all the Metrocards I have been collecting for years a little bit rarer.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines July 19, 2012 - 8:58 am

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Hank July 19, 2012 - 9:35 am

Completely agreed Ben. While I am slightly partial to the current Metrocard design, its days are numbered and anything to raise revenue with minimal to no inconvenience sounds like a win-win.

lawhawk July 19, 2012 - 11:52 am

Subway or bus wraps, Metrocard ads, whatever it will take to generate more revenue for subway operations. That’s all well and good, but the MTA can’t then rely on this revenue once they switch over to whatever new payment system succeeds Metrocards (contactless cards/debit card system). It wont be a permanent solution going forward, but the MTA should squeeze out profit centers where and when it can.

Alon Levy July 19, 2012 - 12:50 pm

Why can’t you advertise on contactless cards?

lawhawk July 19, 2012 - 1:58 pm

You’d be assuming that they go with a contactless card system. They might not – and stick with a debit card system, in which case no advertising opportunities.

Matthias July 20, 2012 - 11:51 am

Why no advertising opportunities? There obviously already are with the current system.

The contactless card is already in the works. It would be a debit card much like other systems use, with the ability to store passes. I don’t know of RFID cards that have ads on them, but I don’t see a reason why it couldn’t work. The space would likely be more valuable since it’s a semi-permanent medium compared with MetroCard.

Andrew July 20, 2012 - 6:53 pm

Because, as I said last night, most riders will be using the contactless credit or debit cards that are already in their wallet.

Andrew July 19, 2012 - 10:00 pm

Because most riders will be using the contactless credit or debit cards that are already in their wallet.

Anon July 22, 2012 - 4:28 pm

No dollar surcharge next year huh?

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