Wheaton Rants: Wrap the Subways in Advertising

Can Marketers, Media Buyers Save the MTA From Itself?

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For those living in New York, it should come as no surprise that just a year or so after declaring it had a surplus, the MTA is declaring a shortfall so severe that it will have to cut entire subway and bus lines while raising fares. This only confirms my suspicion that the Metropolitan Transit Authority allows a room full of monkeys pounding on random-number generators to determine the yearly budget.

Of course, riders are up in arms, as well they should be. The one thing that irks me, though, is the complete resistance over the years to incremental fare hikes and the recent rallying cry, "They bailed out the banks, why not the MTA?" Connect the dots, folks. One of the reasons the MTA is falling short is because the Ponzi scheme of a tax structure in the New York metro area is almost completely reliant on the finance industry. The city doesn't actually produce much of anything other than stock guesses and media content. And we all know the media companies are in no position to carry the tax burden.

Obviously, we can't let the MTA dig itself out of this hole. From the up-and-down deficits and surpluses to the agency's complete inability to accurately price projects (or finish them), it would be clear to a blindfolded albino cave rat that the show's being run by a bunch of incompetents.

So I say we wrap every train with advertising. They've been doing this for years now with the shuttle train between Grand Central and Times Square. Hell, every time they do it, it gets press for the MTA and attracts gawking tourists. Even here in the jaded halls of Advertising Age, such subway wraps are likely to prompt discussion. (And we all know how discussion is just as good as an actual sale.)

Some so-called purists may object to all this ad clutter, especially on "public" property. But I suggest they help themselves to a huge mug of STFU. An ad wrap is certainly better than the illiterate scrawlings of graffiti artists (though I'd bet a number of marketers would go for that look). It'll put at least a couple of dollars in the MTA coffers. Besides, have you seen the inside of a subway train at any point over the last few decades? Sure, it might be a shame to lose out on the creative masterworks advertising personal-injury lawyers, third-tier colleges that make Phoenix University seem like Oxford and, last but not least, Dr. Z. But I doubt many people will complain.

Of course, there's one flaw with this theory. It assumes that marketers have money left to advertise.