Next Stop, TV Ads Inside The Subway Car

Mark another “safe from motion-based commercial messages” area off the list. New York is trying out adding TV screens inside subway cars as a way to bolster flagging revenues. The first campaign is a “full body wrap” – what graffiti artists used to call “bombing” – on the 42nd street shuttle for TBS’s baseball playoff coverage. The (silent) monitors will show highlights from previous games.

If this is just the taste test, what does the future hold in store for the already media-saturated straphanger? A MTA spokesperson tells the New York Times, “Customers in a transit environment can expect increasing levels of sophistication in advertising.”

What they need to do next is harness some of that DARPA “Sonic Projector” tech and beam the sound directly into their audience’s heads using microwave.

M.T.A. Brings TVs to the Subway [NYT] (Thanks to c-side!)


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  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    How quickly will the NY subway system be littered with broken TV screens?

    • Mighty914 says:

      They’ll probably stay intact. They already have screens in several cars with this technology (mainly on the N line if you live in/near the city), but just haven’t really used it to its full capacity yet.

    • 24gotham says:

      I am guessing you haven’t been to NYC for a few decades. Hint: It is no longer a scary place!

    • miss_roxxan says:

      The newer cars already have screens for MTA based messages and I’ve never seen one broken.

      • BytheSea says:

        I’ve never seen a USEFUL screen in a subway or train station destroyed, but I’ve never seen an ad last more than a week without being defaced.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    One of the places I used to work at had LCD screens inside the elevator. There was no audio but it had a ticker with the latest news headlines, weather information, etc. It always seemed extremely redundant because your elevator ride was – at most – to the 16th floor and it didn’t take very long. I could see how screens in subways would be a little more beneficial, but good luck trying to get a glimpse during rush hour when 100+ people are crammed into a single car and it’s standing room only. I’m sure sports highlights are helpful if you can see them beyond someone’s melon.

    • humphrmi says:

      Heh, one of the biggest companies that provides feeds to those is called Captivate.

      Get it, captive? :)

    • nodaybuttoday says:

      That’s pretty common in most NYC high rise buildings. I’ve worked for several companies in the city who had these screens, it gave you something to look at since the elevator was so slow. Then I worked for an agency in Northeast PA and the building was only 3 floors… they had a tv inside AND outside of the elevator. What a waste of money.

  3. NeverLetMeDown says:

    The first campaign is a “full body wrap” – what graffiti artists used to call “bombing”

    This is an absurd line. It’s like saying: having heart surgery, what murderers used to call “stabbing.”

    As for the TVs, anything to bring in more revenue. The fact that we don’t sell ads on Metrocards is absurd, for example. It’s a significant missed revenue opportunity.

    • chaesar says:

      what’s so absurd?

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        What’s absurd is making a comparison between a completely legal advertising offering sold by the MTA and the gross, simpleminded vandalism by those with no respect for the property of others.

        The analogy I made was perfect. The difference between a wrap and bombing is like the difference between heart surgery and being stabbed: whether or not you CONSENTED to the action is the defining charactistic of both.

  4. scoosdad says:

    “The (silent) monitors will show highlights from previous games.”

    If it’s TBS, expect most of the baseball highlight footage to be practically obliterated by annoying animated promos for TBS shows such as “Tyler Perry’s {insert just about anything}”.

  5. Alvis says:

    Nice! So now the subway will be free, thanks to ad subsidies?

  6. Beeker26 says:

    While I usually despise the constant encroachment of ads I actually have to give this a big thumbs-up. Especially if it can prevent the massive increase in fares the city is proposing.

  7. rubicthecube says:

    They have this here in Los Angeles already. All the buses have two monitors which give you news, but mostly ads. In the subway (or Metro as we angelenos call it) they have them as well. They also have this giant display outside the subway that is in sync with the train and as you pass, you watch ads for various things. The technology for it is pretty sweet. The ads not so much.

    • tdatl says:

      Not sure about the buses, but MARTA in Atlanta has LCDs on the trains. No sound for some reason, even though many of the ads feature people talking directly to the camera.

      • George4478 says:

        I love the Marta program from the head of Marta security about how not to get robbed while in her jurisdiction. That one is subtitled.

  8. HeyThereKiller says:

    Honestly every time I get in one of the R-160 trains that come with screens preinstalled I get mad when it’s displaying useless information about the train car.

    The MTA is so incredibly effed right now that it should be doing everything possible make money.

    If having video ads playing in trains will help to prevent another fare hike (in any way shape or form) I’m all for it.

    If you don’t like it then dont look at it and continue to read the newspaper over your neighbor’s shoulder like you’ve been doing for years.

    • ichiban1081 says:

      I’m baffled they haven’t had some sort of ads on those trains either. Even if it’s just a sports highlight or even a bunch of commercials would be a lot more useful than what they have running on them now. I’m just shocked it took them this long.

      Those R-160 trains are probably the best thing that the MTA ever did. Very easy to see what stop is coming up or where you need to transfer to and the speakers are very clear and not muffled.

  9. XxSuntoucherxX says:

    I prefer this to the NYC cab, non silent screens.

  10. Macgyver says:

    Will the MTA use the money to fix their fucked up budget?
    Or maybe they will use the money to give already useless people that are in useless positions raises. Or make up new useless jobs.

    • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

      Wow, another big city transit system with money problems. Substitute “MTA” with “TTC” and it reads like what we have here. And yes, that idea has come across our busybodies looking for ways to get more money in their coffers. Full body wraps have been the norm on our buses, streetcars and subway trains for years. LCD monitors are on every subway platform, dishing out ads ad nauseum. New subway trains are coming this year up here too — wonder what new ways to put ads in our faces they’ll bring?

  11. JF says:

    So at what point does the advertising become pointless becuase we have all learned to tune it out?

  12. canaguy says:

    Nothing new there…..we already have fancy LCD screens at every platform in our transit system…….and advertising inside the cars!!
    but VANCOUVER is very modern…

  13. Murph1908 says:

    A gas station along one of my frequently driven routes put up screens on their gas pumps, which blurted out commercials as you pumped.

    I used to go to that station often. Now I don’t.

    Granted, subway riders don’t have another subway across the street they can switch too. But I just wanted to throw it out into the ether that such practices can end up lowering revenue instead of increasing it.

  14. DcChick says:

    The Metro in DC has been advertising for quite a while on the INSIDE of the tunnels. You’re sitting there looking out the window into a dark tunnel then all of a sudden there’s the Nesquik bunny telling you how delicious he is. It’s kinda like a flip book, the motion of the train makes it look like a video. Kinda cool, but adverts nonetheless.

    • jesirose says:

      That’s actually pretty awesome.

    • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

      The TTC was thinking about that as well. Until advertisers realized that most patrons of Toronto’s subway system are so tightly packed in the cattle cars that maybe 10% of them can actually see out the windows to experience the ads you’re referring to.

  15. Talisker says:

    I wonder if advertisers have realized that the more ads we are subjected to the less impact they have on us. Even if we gape at them, slack-jawed and drooling, they aren’t going to register with us. It’s just something for our eyes to do if we lift our heads up from our books, our smartphones, or the attractive person sitting across the aisle from us.

  16. satoru says:

    Eh they already do this in Japan. Why is this news?

  17. sickyd says:

    The MTR (subway) in Hong Kong has been advertising in their tunnels and at stations for a long time. Big LCD screens attached to the wall opposite the platform provide advertising for those waiting for a train. The coolest thing I saw though was during longer stretches of track where the train picks up speed, they had a motion advertisement like flip-book animation. It was for a nature show on TV so it was of a cheetah running at full speed. They staggered the individual frames enough so that when you looked out the window of the train you would see running cheetahs on either side of the train. Very cool effect.

  18. Dr.Wang says:

    “Customers in a transit environment can expect increasing levels of sophistication in advertising”

    They should have substituted the word “intrusiveness” in place of the word “sophistication”. But then again it’ s NYC where rude was invented.

  19. packy says:

    The new PATH trains already have this. I get to watch Jay Leno’s smirking mug playing three-cup monte while I’m trying to listen to my morning podcasts.

  20. ElizabethD says:

    This seems like a no-brainer to me, and I’m surprised it’s taken this long. Just think of all the canned crap you watch on screens in many doctor’s offices etc.

  21. Hollihocks says:

    MARTA (both trains and buses) has them here in ATL. The bus has things like crossword puzzles, word scrambles and then random ads for weave or strong black women expos. Seriously.

    The trains have the same BUT they mostly show The Price Is Right!!!!!! That’s the beauty of them being owned by CBS.

    • DeKalb says:

      Those ads also run on the train (but no crosswords or trivia puzzles)… however the best train ads are always the low-quality ones for local establishments. Some aren’t even live-action but only pictures of something they’re advertising with words on top of it. They only seem to last about a month or so before being replaced.

      • Hollihocks says:

        I’m really getting tired of seeing that guy screw up on Secret X’s. The makeup case is $65, NOT $40 damn it!

  22. quijote says:

    Eventually advertising screens will cover everything. We will need to buy special glasses that filter out or scramble the images.

    Has anyone attempted motion based advertising by plastering a strip of tunnel wall with individual frames, so that it appears from inside the car to be animated as it’s moving? That has to have been tried.

    • productfred says:

      Yup. I live in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and when you’re taking either the N or the Q into the city (I forget which one), there’s some art that “moves” exactly like you’re describing. I believe somewhere in Europe there was a Nesquik ad that worked the way you described as well.

  23. BytheSea says:

    Smashy smashy :D

  24. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    You’re right, you don’t directly consent to being bombarded by advertising, but indirectly you do. Turn on a TV? Ads. Check your favourite website (assuming you’re not tech savvy enough to get an ad blocker extension to your browser)? Ads. Ride a bus, subway or streetcar? Ads. Drive along a major street or highway? Ads. Listen to the radio? Ads. Lots and lots of ways to persuade to separate you from your money. This is just another example. Pretty soon your iPretty device will deliver ads right on your home screen. Live with it, or live under a rock: it’s been the norm since the beginning of old media.

  25. Razor512 says:

    If they do wide spread use, then people may break them. For now, I mostly see people scratching the protective shield for the screen.

  26. a_pink_poodle says:

    New York City is just doing this now? I didn’t realize how behind the times the city is. Hong Kong has had this for at least a decade now.