Nick’s post here yesterday (nice first post, btw!) got me thinking about advertising dollars. Only 2% of Metro’s buses are wrapped, yet that generates $1 mn per year. It stands to figure if 100% were wrapped, $50 million could be raised. That would be about 12% of Metro’s $400 million or so budget. I know we’re not the only ones who are for more ads in transit here, that this for example.

We need to generate more money through advertising. Ride the London Underground and you see a ton of advertising. Metro and Sound Transit buses have very little advertising, or space for it. Much of the advertising is of the non-profit type, and targets the very demographic Thatcher believes rides buses: the down and out, drug addicted, unemployed. Surely someone would like to try to sell me something through paid advertising. Even those that can barely afford such things stand in line to buy iPods and iPhones.

Here’s some ideas about ads that could be in train stations. Outside of bus shelters, bus wrappings and trains stations, what are other advertising possibilities?

13 Replies to “More Money Through Advertising”

  1. um, no. we like the fact that seattle is not full of advertisements everywhere.

    sure, we could get rid of those pesky murals and install “cool” ads at the stops. we could put ads on transfers and passes. we could put ads on the backs of seats. we could play audio ads on buses 24-7. we could cover every square inch of the bus tunnel with ads. we could sell naming rights to routes.

    but thankfully seattle hasn’t taken this route (yet). there are many other ways to increase revenue.

  2. I think advertisment is crucial to our agencies in Seattle. I really do think that we need to tap into more of that market. I don’t necessarily agree with most of ads currently being from non-profits, last I checked apple, esurance, beacon plumbing, and brown bear to name a few were for profit. The only non profit company I can think of is the HIV Trials that you see a few ads for, they are from Fred Hutch which is non-profit. I think if it means better transit service via whatever mode then I am 100% for it. One thing that has to happen is the system has to be functional and easy for visitors to use. We can’t throw up so many ads everywhere that it is hard to find the timetables, rider alerts, etc.

    On another note about being cool and riding transit, I was reminded of one thing in specific while I read that piece. Sound Transit has marketed the Sounder for Seahawks games and they have that cool “Wave head” that goes on your head. I think that is really a great way to erase the stigma. A lot of people wore them at the games too. Good for them! I think that people who ride transit are cool though.

  3. don’t use ‘we’, lee–you’re speaking for yourself. i’m all for the advertising and am tired of seattle’s small town aesthetic preferences (views from the viaduct! tall buildings are not ‘northwest!’, etc.) getting in the way of pursuing the large city solutions that are necessary to deal responsibly with the city’s growth.

    you say there are many other ways to raise revenue–perhaps you should share them with our elected officials. it’s not like seatle’s voters–though quite undertaxed for large city residents–are clamoring for higher taxes.

  4. Considering that Metro hasn’t had any trouble getting public funding yet, I’d say we should shy away from things that discourage people from riding. :)

  5. Advertising can be done in an organized way.

    Advertising space should be available inside all buses and filled with a high percentage of paid ads, leaving space for non-profits and rider info of course. But we should be running at 100% on all buses. We are far, far from that.

    Then there are the buses stops and shelters. Work with advertisers to build shelters where they don’t exist. Give them ad space in return for a while.

    The metro tunnel can also have well placed ads without being over-bearing. Elevator shafts are perfect spots for lots of small ads.

    There is money in all this that would decrease public costs and increase public support. People want public agencies to be financially smart. Advertising is a important factor.

  6. in response to ben:

    metro may not have had trouble finding money for its current service, but i think it’s hard to dispute that its current service leaves something to be desired. who wouldn’t like to see more crosstown routes? or crosstown routes that run more often? or a number of other things? it makes sense to advertise, and i feel pretty certain that the ridership gained by more numerous, frequent, and extensive routes would outnumber the ridership loss of aesthetic purists who can’t take the advertising.

  7. Advertising and transit usability do not mix well.

    Usability problems with transit advertising

    If you think transit user rights and uses will be protected by advertising agreements with the likes of CBS, Clear Channel, or substitute your favorite corporation, think of the rights of an individual vs those of most corporations.

  8. Anonymous – As they say, “if we can put people on the moon”, we can figure out a way to bring in advertising money.

    Let’s be real though, when I sit on the bus and see empty advertising space, this is not a issue of media control gone wild, this is a case of not doing the job and finding a buyer for that ad space. Plain and simple.

    Go ride the London Underground one of these days and notice the ads in the trains. Many of them are whimsical, and many target tourists, but most of them are paid advertising, and they help pay for the service most Londoners can’t live without.

    We should be doing the best of that type of thing here, and there is a ton of room for improvement.

  9. Wrapping all buses is at odds with the realities of advertising.

    What gives wrapped coaches value is their uniqueness. They stand out and give the advertisers lots of exposure. If you wrapped them all you’d experience the “can’t see the forest for the trees” phenomenon. The value would plummet.

    Plus, with multiple providers in the region, wrapping all of the coaches would impact rider identification. There is a science to transit advertising and it does have limits.

  10. I work on the Eastside and I often spend four hours a day in commute. My one pleasure is being able to look out the window. If I look out the window on a wrapped bus, I get a headache, and it seriously impinges on the quality of my day. Those of us who make the commitment to ride public transportation should not have to suffer for our choice.

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