New form of transit advertising debuts in Atlanta subway

Posted on July 1, 2001

On September 27, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) will become the first transit system in the nation to debut subway tunnel advertising. Deviating from traditional transit advertising venues such as bus shelters, subway stations and onboard buses, subways and trains, this new form of advertising makes use of dark subway walls—previously unexplored territory. Each ad consists of a series of light boxes installed on a subway wall. Each light box contains frame-by-frame clips of the advertisement and, as a train passes through the tunnel, the illuminated boxes create the illusion that a motion picture is playing directly outside the window. “We are excited about the possibility of being on the cutting edge of this new technology, not to mention the wonderful benefit of it being a revenue generator for us,” said Steen Miles, MARTA communications officer. Revenue generation for MARTA, as for many transit authorities, is a top concern and subway tunnel advertising represents a new avenue for generating advertising revenue. “We have a couple of other revenue generating projects in the works, but this is one of the more lucrative,” said Miles. MARTA currently has a yearly advertising revenue of about $5.5 million. According to Miles, “the long-term revenue potential [of tunnel advertising] is about $15 million over five years, if we do 16 sites throughout the system.” Currently, only one test ad featuring Dasani water is installed and that ad alone will generate $90,000 over a six-month period for MARTA. The concept behind subway tunnel advertising was developed by media company Sub-Media in New York. Depending on construction costs, advertisers will pay a monthly fee of $35,000 for a low-traffic tunnel up to $250,000 for a high-traffic tunnel. Transit authorities will collect between 20% and 60% of that amount, depending on the cost of installing the display. Finally, because Sub-Media fabricates, operates, installs and maintains the displays, transit authorities do not incur any costs from tunnel advertising.

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