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Next subway stop is TV

TTC also planning ads in tunnels

Monitors in cars to ‘enhance’ ride


Coming soon to a darkened subway tunnel near you: a silent moving picture show.

The folks who sell all the TTC’s advertising have figured out how to take the often devastatingly boring subway ride — in which passengers stare blankly out the window and into nothing at all — and turn part of it into a 15-second ad.

By exposing the moving train audience to a series of static images placed on the tunnel walls, Viacom Outdoor Canada figures it can get your attention.

“That’s just a neat way of using the space that’s there as the riders are riding the rocket,” said Nick Arakgi, general manager of Viacom Outdoor Canada.

He likened it to drawing “stick figures on a page, and by flicking a page you create a little moving picture; that’s exactly the concept.

“Rather than looking out into a dark expanse, what you’re going to get is an advertisement. If you could imagine, a strip of the track is going to have individual pictures. As the subway is riding past, it’s going to create that flicking of the page effect.”

The tunnel advertising and the coming of TV monitors in subway cars and platforms are two pilot projects the TTC will introduce this fall as it begins to brace for a $5.5 million shortfall in ad revenue.

On Wednesday, the TTC is expected to award Viacom Outdoor Canada a contract that will pay the transit commission a guaranteed minimum of $93.2 million over seven years, the best deal it could get from four bidders vying for exclusive ad-selling rights on the transit system. Viacom’s current deal with the TTC expires in December.

While passengers provide the TTC with the lion’s share of revenue — about $665 million annually — advertising is the TTC’s second biggest revenue generator. This deal represents a drop from $18.2 million to $12.7 million annually from what the TTC currently collects in ad revenue.

“Even though on a relative basis, it’s a small portion of the pie, it’s still a lot of money,” said Vince Rodo, the TTC’s general secretary, adding that $5.5 million revenue shortfall “would be the equivalent of a nickel fare increase halfway through the year.”

The only way the TTC can earn enough to cover that loss in advertising is if Viacom is able to earn more from its exclusive advertising rights than it has budgeted.

“Hopefully they sell a lot of advertising and we’re not stuck with the guaranteed minimum,” said Rodo.

“To that end, there are some things in there that we are prepared to take a serious look at.”

Another new revenue generator could be the sale of ads on LCD monitors installed in some subway cars and platforms in a pilot project this fall that could go system-wide next year and ultimately spread to streetcars and buses. Those LCD monitors — like a TV screen, but with no sound — would display news, sports, weather, and TTC information such as displaying the next stop, or advising of delays. The concept is already in place in elevators in business towers, but the TTC will use bigger screens.

“The video concept will fit nicely for the passengers,” said Arakgi. “I think it’s going to enhance the ride.

“When you and I get on and we stare at the advertising, but now there’s going to be different advertising there. Nobody wants to look at each other any more, that’s too bad.

“As the system grows, it will announce the next stop. For somebody who’s hearing impaired that’s a great advantage, they’ll be able to look up and see the next stop is Dundas, or Bay, or whatever.”

Rodo says the TTC will canvass its passengers on these innovations during the pilot projects to gauge acceptance.

“If the customers hate it … we won’t do it,” said Rodo. “If they tell us it’s not so bad, then you might think about expanding it and decide if that’s a technology we can introduce in the hopes of making up some of that $5.5 million in an attempt to try and do what we can do to fill that gap.”