Nestle Quik Flipbook Ad On DC Metro Walls Is Kinda Magical

As the DC red line train I rode last week shot through a tunnel, a happy brown bunny jumped up and down on the walls, lofting up a bottle of Nestle Quik. It wasn’t a video, it was a series of back-illuminated panels, each one a successive frame in the animated cartoon. It was like running through flipbook in real life. I found a clip of it on YouTube, posted inside, the cartoon starts at 15 seconds in.

The image isn’t great but it gives you an idea of the effect. Who’s got the backstory on who made this ad and how it came to be? We bemoan the intrusion of advertising into every living surface, but it’s cool to see a little piece of magic like this in an otherwise boring situation.


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  1. Hamtronix says:

    They have something similar in the Boston T underground.

    • OmniZero says:

      @Hamtronix: Where on the T? I’ve ridden it quite a bit when I’ve visited my brother in Boston. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it next time.

      • mark0429 says:

        @OmniZero: On the Red line, inbound between Harvard and Central. We had the nesquick ad a few months ago. Also a lame Vermont ad, that didn’t really use the technology to its full potential.

      • gandalf88 says:

        @OmniZero: @mark0429: There is also one between Andrew and Broadway on the Red Line. For the longest time it has been an ad for Speed Racer but I think they finally changed it recently, I just don’t remember what.

    • visualbowler says:

      @Hamtronix: The Red Line Subway in Boston has had an ad like this running for months to promote vermont and every time i go by it i sit back and enjoy it and it certainly gets me to watch the ad.

    • VidaBlueBalls says:

      @Hamtronix: about 4 years ago, the ad between South Station and Broadway was for Royal Caribbean cruise lines…and they ran it during the winter. Every night everyone on the train longed to be on that boat where the weather was warm.

      • endersshadow says:

        @VidaBlueBalls: I was one of those people watching the boat sail away and wishing I was there. And now I’m living in Texas where it’s definitely warm and I long for nothing more than snow and that frosty air. Every time it dips below 40 at night and I take my dog out, I smile a bit. Funny that we always wish for that which we don’t have.

        And yes, I’m complaining about living in Texas where it was 70 today.

    • JPropaganda says:

      @Hamtronix: The PATH in Hoboken also has this same ad.

    • Triene says:

      Well, I came to the comment thread to say that there used to be one of these for Target on the Boston T Red line, but it seems someone’s already covered that ground.

      Oh well :< Thanks for the video

    • yeabirfday says:

      @Hamtronix: @Triene: haha, me too! what I _can_ add is that the one in Boston seemed to be front-lit with a strobe, as opposed to back-lit.

  2. concordia says:

    Just a reminder that Nestlé values profit over the lives of children in developing countries.

    • Corporate_guy says:

      @concordia: Name one company that doesn’t value profit over the lives of children in developing countries. And what makes nestle different than ford?

      • concordia says:

        @Corporate_guy: Nothing. They’re both equally guilty.

        • SadSam says:


          Growing up my Mom always boycotted Nestle for this very reason.
          I’m sure I could figure this out for myself or ask my Mom but what are the details?

          • LandruBek says:

            @SadSam: There’s a famous (ongoing) boycott of Nestle, and in a nutshell the message is “Nestle=dead babies.”

            The story is that Nestle would offer ZOMG FREE! infant formula to new mothers+babies in developing countries while mom was recovering in the hospital. In fact (they say) the nurses wouldn’t even wake mom to nurse the baby; nurses would just feed formula to the baby. So by the time mom was out of the hospital she had ceased to lactate, but then the formula was no longer free. So the family had either (a) regularly to buy baby formula, or (b) baby would starve. No money? Plan b then.

            Obligatory wikipedia link

            • The_IT_Crone says:

              @LandruBek: I’m sorry but I see the hospitals and (lesser so) mothers at fault in your example. If we were given unlimited free candy, would the company be at fault for us all getting sick because we were eating 100% candy and no real food? No, it would be our fault for not eating a proper diet.

              However, I read that wiki link you posted and there were some huge legitimate problems with Nestle there (like marketing formula that needs water in areas that have no clean water… yuck). As well as more idiocy on the part of mothers, but that’s to be expected and should not be blamed on the company.

              • LandruBek says:

                @The_IT_Crone: “hospitals and . . . mothers at fault

                The story (it is alleged) is that Nestle arranged the whole evil scheme: the hospital staff were instructed not to trouble the mothers. Many new mothers are still quite young and inexperienced regarding breastfeeding. Medical staff have lots of respect and wield great power, and many societies do not encourage young women to challenge authority figures. Of course the mothers should not have allowed this to happen. Of course the hospital director should not peddle his influence over maternity care to enrich both himself and the Nestle corporation. Of course hospital staff should walk off the job rather than be complicit in this scheme.

                Although my love of conspiracy theories inclines me to believe the whole thing, I know that any story that involves giants (or giant corporations) who prey on poor, naive young women and their newborn babes is obviously a story comprising mythic stuff, and my natural skepticism says it’s exaggerated. Whatever it is, it’s definitely a horror story with Nestle behind it all. I’m sure I’ll never really know how much of it is true.

                • Anonymous says:

                  Nestle created baby formula because so many babies were dying since their moms couldn’t make enough milk or their moms died in childbirth. I think we also need to think about the number of babies that survived because of formula. Although I wasn’t in Africa for this, I have to believe it is more a case of not thinking through the consequences than a malicious corporate act. If they can’t afford the formula, what good does it do to get them hooked on it?

    • Ein2015 says:

      @concordia: Please link to some evidence. :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    I remember going through between Gallery Place and Union Station for work every day and if I remember right the first one I saw was a target ad on those displays. This was roughly a year ago or so. There was also a Honda one as well after they took down the Target one.

  4. wickedpixel says:

    I thought of this 8 years ago taking the BART across the bay into San Francisco. Stealing my ideas again…

  5. mdoublej says:

    wow, how many backlit panels is that?

  6. pb5000 says:

    We bemoan the intrusion of advertising into every living surface

    I catch your drift and agree to an extent. But… I don’t see how this one was intrusive? It would have otherwise been a blank dark wall. So given the choice, I’d rather watch a clever animated commercial than watch a black wall. Plus, if you’d rather not watch the ad, look away.

    • Coles_Law says:

      @pb5000: I agree-it could have been made much worse. A while back engineers and advertisers (adgeneers?) grooved a road such that if you drove a Honda Civic over it at 55 mph, you would hear the 1812 overture. That was intrusive advertising-at least for those who lived by the road. This subway ad? Just as clever, but less intrusive.

    • courtarro says:

      @pb5000: Sometimes blank walls and empty surfaces are preferable to advertising.

    • Raiders757 says:


      Add or no add, that’s better than a boring tunnel wall. I can’t believe it’s takne so long for such an idea to take hold. I hate the corporate takeover we suffer through just as much a sanyone else, bu that waws very clever.

      • Raiders757 says:


        Wow, beer and fast typing do not go together at all. “waws”?!! LOL “takne” ?!! LOL again. I’ll just stop while i’m ahead.

        • SadSam says:


          Does this advertisement or others subsidize the cost of Metro such that ticket prices are reduced?

          • RagingBoehner says:

            @SadSam: Ultimately, yes. Metro sells ads in stations, on busses, and in tunnels and while there’s isn’t a 1:1 correspondence of ad revenue to ticket prices it does affect the overall Metro budget — and ads either keep fares from rising (as quickly) or lessen the need for appropriations from DC, MD & VA

  7. RAREBREED says:

    They already have this on BART coming into SF. I first noticed it last year coming back from a Warriors game.

    • thebuffster says:

      They also have it in the Embarcadero station on the way to the East Bay.

      It’s never bothered me because I found it rather unobstrusive. It’s much better than the wall-to-wall advertising in the Montgomery station.

  8. ajamison says:

    Welcome to LA in May…

  9. illtron says:

    DC has had these for a while. The PATH had them in New York too, between 14th and 23rd St. I remember a Lexus ad and a Fantastic Four ad.

  10. chrisjames says:

    It’s already frightening enough with that bunny appearing in the least likely of places to repeatedly shove marketing material in your tired face. As the back-lighting cuts out, everyone gets to see their astonished mug staring back at them through the glass like the end of those “stare long enough and you’ll see the ghost/car/boobs” pranks.

    Is this really what they want to associate with Nestle Quik?

  11. ShrilekhaElpenor says:

    They’ve been doing this awhile here in dc. The first I saw was for target atleast 1.5 year ago, but i never saw one before that only because that’s when i moved here.
    It does look like backlit lcd panels for some reason in that video, but i’m almost positive it’s just like a movie theatre style ad you would see outside the place, a poster in a frame with a florescent tube to light it up.

    • SabreDC says:

      @ShrilekhaElpenor: Yep. They added them about a year and a half to two years ago. The Target ad (in the same place as this one – on the red line between Gallery Place/Chinatown and Judiciary Square – was the first one.

      • AliyaBabasaur says:

        @SabreDC: When I first saw that target ad, I giggled and clapped like a little kid (or tourists, they freak out and point them out to everyone around them)… the novelty wore off quick though

  12. HungryTuna says:

    Target did this on the Path train in New Jersey in 2001-2002.

  13. arras says:

    Metro started doing this about 8 months ago, maybe longer. First it was a semi-static image, kind of like a billboard that filled up all the windows. They were testing it between certain stations on the red line.

    Around the same time, many cars – in some cases whole trains – were wrapped in advertising for Chevy Chase bank (local bank), Bank of America, a local news station, etc.

  14. tedyc03 says:

    To answer your question directly, Ben, here’s a WMATA press release:


  15. TheRedSeven says:

    Also in the Chicago El (On the Blue line, leaving the Clark/Lake stop heading toward the Washington stop). It’s been showing an ad for Speed Racer for the past 6+ months.

    The company for the one on the Chicago El is Submedia ([]), though they use something other than backlit images. METROvista ([]) also does a similar product, though its a bit more complex than the one on the video. The one on Boston’s T is from SideTrack ([]).

    This isn’t a new idea. Stroboscopes have been around for a long time ([]). But using them on a Subway for ad purposes is a relatively novel idea. I hope they improve the technology though…the one here in Chicago kinda sucks.

  16. HeyThereKiller says:

    Bill Bland did this 28 years ago as an art installation in what is now the Q/B tunnel leading up to the Manhattan Bridge in Bklyn… it was just restored at the end of october:


  17. Shadowman615 says:

    That’s been there for a few years now — although the actual ad changes every so often. I think there’s one between the Metro Center and Gallery Place stops on the red line. At one point it was a Microsoft ad, for quite a long time.

  18. Binaryslyder says:

    I take the Red line into the district almost daily, they’ve been doing these for several years now (2 or 3 maybe, I’m too lazy to look at the press release). I’ve seen tons of ads. Target, Lexus, Fantastic 4, Etc. They mostly pop up around the Judiciary Square and Metro Center stops along the Red line, though I suspect some of the other stations have them too. The main problem I have with them is that the trains have to drive by them at a certain speed, other wise the image is either blurry or choppy. I don’t mind the ads, but I can’t stand it when its just a bunch of out of focus colors on the wall. Now, if they would only use that ad revenue to cut my commute cost down from $6, we’ll be in business.

    • SabreDC says:

      @Binaryslyder: $6? You’re lucky. I pay $12 from outside Springfield on a Fairfax Connector bus and then metro from Springfield.

      I used to live on the orange line, so in the past year, I’ve taken orange, blue, and yellow regularly, so I can attest that there aren’t any on those lines. I think red is the only line that has these.

  19. Knippschild says:

    that’s a very good idea. Someone in their advertisement division needs a raise.

  20. Bensky13 says:

    I saw that just two weeks ago! I was hoping there would be others, but I didn’t see any.

  21. Ben Popken says:

    Brandon Savage found this press release: []

    Motion picture-like advertisements debut in Metrorail tunnels

    Travel Channel and Lincoln/Mercury are first to purchase tunnel ads

    Metrorail riders traveling from Metro Center to Gallery Pl-Chinatown or Gallery Pl to Judiciary Sq will see Metro’s first tunnel advertisements today on the Red Line. The ads look like mini-motion pictures to riders looking out of the windows.

    The Travel Channel, part of Discovery Networks US, and Ford Motor Company are the first the first two companies to advertise on Metro tunnel walls.

    The advertising displays in the tunnels are a series of static images that appear to move as a train rolls by. Riders will see what looks like a 15-second, silent motion picture.

    Submedia, LLC, developed the technology for the “moving” tunnel advertisement displays. The company’s patented system for the in-tunnel advertising technology was inspired by the 19th century circular children’s toy called a zoetrope.

    “We are excited to be here and look forward to entertaining riders during their commute,” said Submedia CEO Peter Corrigan.

    “These ads will generate an important source of income for Metro that we plan to use to improve service for our riders,” said Metro Assistant General Manager for Customer Communications Leona Agouridis. “We’re excited to see this new form of advertising in our tunnels and hope it makes the ride a little more entertaining for our passengers.”

    In-tunnel advertising is expected to generate $100,000 this fiscal year and $700,000 next year.

    Metro plans to use the advertising revenue on customer enhancements such as bomb-containment trash cans, a telephone-based Spanish language Trip Planner, a remote monitoring system for the Passenger Information Displays, a new sales and service center and new signs for busy rail stations.

    Tunnel advertising is one element of a series of advertising initiatives including ATMs in Metrorail stations, wrapped trains and buses, and video monitors on buses and trains designed to generate non-passenger revenue.

    Between Metro Center and Gallery Pl-Chinatown on trains headed toward Glenmont, riders will see a man being pulled on a sled by a team of dogs. The ad promotes the Travel Channel’s program, “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.”

    In the tunnel between Gallery Pl-Chinatown and Judiciary Sq in the direction of Glenmont, the Ford Motor Company promotes its new Lincoln Zephyr. Metro riders will see a red carpet roll out to greet the driver of the luxury car.

    Submedia has worked with several transit agencies including MARTA in Atlanta, PATH in New Jersey and the CTA in Chicago.

    • InsaneNewman says:

      @Ben Popken:

      I thought this was cool when I was in DC this summer and saw the Speed Racer version, which was done (as you say) with hundreds of feet of posters.

      However, the new version (in use in at Heathrow) is REALLY cool… it uses LED strips and the concept of persistence of vision to “virtually” create the panels (Ever seen those clocks that flick back-and-forth and make the time “appear” as the strip of LEDs flash in sequence? It’s just like that).

      See here: []

      What I, as an advertising geek, think is really cool about this system is that the ads can be changed instantly, with no production costs (no waste – except power), and can even be targeted by time of day and changed on a train-by-train basis. Nifty.

  22. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    Dumb or not, this ad has got a bunch of people talking about Nestle Quik. So it worked.

  23. Jhonka says:

    There’s one that’s been in the BART from Montgomery to Embarcadero station for awhile now.

    That video is old, I’m not sure if the new one is still a Target ad since I don’t pay attention to that ad. Nice alternative outdoor advertising though.

  24. Jhonka says:

    @undefined: @Jhonka:
    A related article!

  25. LINIS says:

    Yeah, I pass this everyday heading to work. Like others have said, this type of advertising has been there for a long time.

    I don’t see why anyone thinks this is intrusive. I say plaster ads anywhere and everywhere on Metro – I’m a daily rider and I support more ads. The more advertising dollars coming into Metro the fewer fare hikes we’ll see (hopefully), not to mention less dependency of the system on tax dollars.

    I read somewhere that Metro is bringing flat screen TVs with system information and advertisements to the stations. I can’t wait for those.

  26. STrRedWolf says:

    You may also want to hit up the Washington Post’s Traffic and Transit team (including the strangely named Dr. Gridlock) for more investigation.

  27. redkamel says:

    I ve seen these in several tunnels at least as far back as in the Vegas airport when I was 16 or 18 I think…memories are kind of hazy.

    and I would far rather reflect on my day while watching a tunnel wall than see an advertisement.

  28. Mary says:

    Thank you! I’ve been meaning to tell my friends about this after it caught me entirely by surprise one day. I was actually watching the opposite window and only caught part of it and I wasn’t sure I wasn’t crazy.

  29. cmdrsass says:

    I first saw this ad technique on the Boston T in the early 90s – red line, obviously

  30. iamlost26 says:

    Hate to break it to you guys, but this has been happening in the Hong Kong MTR since the last time I was there (3 years ago) and probably even longer.

    Nothing revolutionary, though I’m glad the US is happily jumping on the “look at all the wasted space that could be ADS!” boat.

    • grizzly says:


      We’ve had it here too in Singapore since 2007.

      It’s a nice distraction from trying not to stare at other commuters and it has the added bonus of lacking any form of (irritating) soundtrack.

      Don’t get me started on the digital tv broadcasts that we receive on our public buses and taxis. X-(

  31. bluewyvern says:

    As a New Yorker, I already have serious DC metro envy. So pretty, so clean, so uniform and modern… *sigh* Now they even have fancier ads than we do. Ours mostly advertise shows and events that ended months ago anyway…

  32. JoeWaiver says:

    these ads really take away from all the staring at other people’s reflections I’m trying to get in between stops.

  33. suburbancowboy says:

    Burma Shave.

  34. suburbancowboy says:

    Do these ads result in lower fares on the train? If so, then ok. If not, the ads should not be there.
    Ads are supposed to be a silent transaction between an advertiser and the viewer of the ad.

    In TV, Radio and the Internet, a user gets free programming/content in return for viewing an ad. (cable breaks this formula). When the user gets nothing in return for viewing the ad, the ad should not exist.

  35. ELC says:

    These are not new. First saw one in the Boston T in 2005, then saw some in DC shortly thereafter. I’d rather see those than have stuff plastered all over the trains looking gaudy – here’s looking at you Boston T!

  36. Outtacontext says:

    I wrote about this when it first debuted on DC’s Metro in 2006: []

    Looks like my video was shot from the same station. Nice that the man in the image decided to bend over at just the right time. ;-)

  37. JuneVeto says:

    It looks pretty neat.
    At least it’s not for something inappropriate – It could be worse.

  38. akiranimus says:

    This ad was animated at a company called Titmouse Inc. by an Animation by Allison Craig and Clean Up by Jan Naylor, the Producer that headed the animation end goes by the likes of a David Busch. That much i know about the animation production.