Muni goes shopping for ads aplenty

Imagine riding home on a Muni train sitting firmly on a Macy’s logo. Or, if you’re not lucky enough to grab a seat, simply reaching between the dangling Outback Steakhouse cards to hold onto the safety bar above you.

Tourists who want to drink in The City’s sites can peer around window stickers as ads flash on monitors inside the bus. And if you think you can escape commercial messages by driving, think again. In city-owned parking garages, you may find backlit wall signs, full elevator wraps and planter boxes selling you everything from bank accounts to iPods.

This week, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will issue a request for proposals to take control of its 10-year,
multimillion-dollar vehicle-advertising contract. The financially strapped transit system plans to nearly quadruple the money it makes from advertising in the new deal.

The contract, if extended to 20 years, will net Muni well more than $300 million, SFMTA spokesman Judson True said. The agency is projected to face a $50 million to $70 million budget deficit by fiscal year 2008-09.

“It’s fair to say we’re looking at the possibility of increasing advertising in order to increase our revenues,” True said. “No one wants every inch of public space cluttered with commercial messages, and that’s not what we’re looking to do. But we need to look at every available option to increase revenue to improve service on the system.”

CBS Outdoor, which currently holds the contract, provides $2.75 million to The City annually. The new vendor would provide a minimum of $10 million the first year, with that number rising by about $500,000 annually.

The options offered to advertisers include extensive signage and digital displays on buses and in transit stations, wrapped seating, window stickers, bus door panels and even ads on train floors. True cautioned that Muni is simply offering up possibilities to potential contractors, who would use the options to put together an advertising plan that transit officials would have to approve.

“We’re going to decide later what we’re going to allow. We’re committed to expanding advertising in a way that’s tasteful and in line with the values of San Francisco,” True said.

Sheila Kolenc, interim executive director of SF Beautiful, said San Franciscans registered their disdain for too many commercial messages when they passed Proposition G in 2004, banning new billboards on private property.

“The citizens were being tired of being sold to every minute of the day in every possible location,” Kolenc said. “Perhaps it’s time we look at getting enough support together to ban it on public property. Maybe that’s the next step.”

Kolenc said she plans to relay her concerns to Muni officials.

“One of the reasons I love riding Muni is just sitting back and watching the world go by,” she said. “Advertisers are really taking that away from transit users.”

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

$5.7 million Muni’s revenue from in-vehicle advertising last year
$10 million Minimum revenue expected in fiscal year 2009-10 with new contract
$300 million Minimum total revenue expected by fiscal year
2028-29 with new contract

Potential ad space

On buses

Interior and exterior panel advertising
Wholly and partially covered buses
Advertising on floor, seats, window stickers, TransitTV
Window and door panels
Hangers/grabbers

In parking garages

Full elevator wraps
Ramp and stairway advertising
Pedestrian motion-panel advertising
Large back-lit displays
Elevator video screen advertising
Escalator advertising
Digital video screens at central cashier locations

Other

Ads on the back of cable car tickets, Fast Passes, parking tickets, Translink SmartCards, residential parking permits.

Source: SFMTA

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