<body> Public Ad Campaign: Coming soon to Philadelphia: Digital Ads on Buses?!?
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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Coming soon to Philadelphia: Digital Ads on Buses?!?

Lets all remember Titan Outdoor also has the only contract to display ad content on the 3,300 buses in service for the MTA.

If Titan Outdoor has their way, Philadelphia's neighborhood streets will soon be home to hundreds of buses outfitted with eye-poppingly bright, flashing, blinking, digital advertising on the sides.

Titan Outdoor manages advertising on transit vehicles and in stations for SEPTA. In September, Titan Outdoor and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) announced their plans to install digital advertising panels to the sides of 100 Chicago buses. SCRUB's hunch is that Titan will be wooing SEPTA to do the same here.

Not everyone in Chicago will be subjected to these rolling LED displays. CTA has determined that Chicago's upscale Lake Shore Drive will be off-limits for the rolling digital ads. The rest of the city, however, is fair game. News coverage of the Chicago deal suggests that the ads will change based on the neighborhood. This raises important questions about this program if implemented here in Philadelphia, a city with a history of advertisers who target low-income neighborhoods with messages for alcohol, sugary beverages and fast food.

Additionally, there is the clumsy mismatch between SEPTA's appealing "Go Green, Go SEPTA" campaign and the sizable carbon footprint of digital advertising. From data we have seen, SCRUB's estimate is that 100 digital bus ads is the rough equivalent of two 1,200 square foot digital billboards. It would take the planting of approximately 9,000 trees each year to off-set the carbon impact of 100 digital bus ads. This is "going green"?

And, what about safety? The traffic engineering community is extremely concerned about driver distraction and road safety. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study in 2006 that found that drivers who take their eyes off the road for two seconds or longer have a significantly increased crash risk. Can Philadelphia's pedestrians, cyclists and drivers afford to have yet more dangerous distractions on our city streets?

SCRUB supports SEPTA's efforts to provide the region with public transportation and appreciates their on-going financial challenges. But, we have also witnessed SEPTA's willingness to go along with just about anything Titan Outdoor suggests - such as the illegal 4400 square foot Duncan Donuts wallwrap placed on the 1234 Market Street building, the widely-reviled advertising wrapped Colt 45 bus, and most recently, the Market-Frankford El stations plastered in ads for Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Let's hope that this time, SEPTA has the good sense to say "No thanks."

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