Cemusa Enters Phase Two of NYC Street Makeover

First Public Toilets Unveiled; Kinks Worked Out for Newsstands

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The street furniture makeover of New York has entered phase two. The first of 20 automated public toilets was unveiled by the New York City Department of Transportation yesterday in Madison Square Park.
Cemusa public toilet, New York
Cemusa public toilet, New York

The toilets are the latest structures to be rolled out as part of the city's 20-year contract with Cemusa, a Spanish street-furniture company that brokered a deal with New York in 2006 to roll out 3,300 new bus shelters, 330 newsstands and 37 sheltered bike parking structures.

$1.4 billion in revenue
The deal was valued to bring the city $1.4 billion in revenue, based largely on ad sales on the bus shelters, newsstands and public toilets (which carry a fee of 25 cents for 15 minutes of use, followed by a 60-second self-cleaning cycle). Cemusa declined to release specific revenue figures for 2007, but said it was on track to meet its yearly goal. The company needs to sell an average of $70 million in ads per year in order to be on track for meeting its 20-year revenue goal.

The street furnitures' first year of full deployment got off to a mixed start. Just weeks after the installation of new newstands, many owners began reporting leaks and even break-ins to their facilities. Katie Schwab, director of Cemusa's government relations, said the company has since responded to each of the problems and hopes to have resolved them. Of the break-ins, she said, "We realized operators had a preference for using their own locks, and we designed the newsstands so they had a stainless steel lock integrated into the gate." The water-leakage issues were similarly due to the new design of the stands, which have an eco-friendly component to them. "It's a beautiful open design, but does allow for some exposure to the elements," she said. "We've gone into each newsstand, talked with each operating individual and developed some accommodations to the outside of the newsstand to repair them. We feel confident they're able to withstand the rigors of New York City street life now."

Bus shelters
The bus shelters have had a comparatively smoother rollout, though there have been recent reports of cement degradation during inclement weather. Primarily, however, they have been the easiest selling point for the company; the shelters have side-panel billboard inventory and, in 10 locations, video screens with Bluetooth-enabled technology, a first for New York street furniture. Discovery Communications became the first and so far only marketer to use the technology last year when it used the video screens to promote series like "Planet Earth" and "L.A. Ink" and provide Bluetooth-enabled pedestrians with exclusive mobile video. Ms. Schwab said Discovery recently renewed its deal to provide the screens with video content this year, but Cemusa is working with the city to expand the screens and Bluetooth technology to other bus shelters.

Popular ad categories for the bus shelters' first year included TV networks, movie studios and airlines, said Nigel Emery, Cemusa's research and marketing director. The company has since started to see growth in luxury items, fashion and retail, and will be look to increase from the personal care and packaged goods categories. Additionally, Mr. Emery said, the company stands to benefit from the forthcoming metrics from the Traffic Audit Bureau, which would put a more granular metric on the number of pedestrians who actually interact with the ads. He expects the new data to be available by 2009.

Flush with ad platforms
And now that the first of the public toilets is up and running, Cemusa has another ad platform available to marketers.

Although the first toilet in Madison Square Park was not launched with any advertising due to a possible conflict with park regulations, future structures will indeed be ad-supported. Ms. Schwab said, "As you can imagine, there have been a lot of inquiries from advertisers with a number of products that would be a good fit." The typical deployment for an ad on the structures is about 30 days, she added. "There's extensive street work required, utility connections. We're fully wired for telecommunicators. It's just a big installation and takes some time."
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