Yay or Nay?

Photo via The Buzzer Blog

January 2011 marked a new day with our fair Translink. They’ve taken to putting ads on the farecards. I can see the positive and the negative to this ugly addition to the cards, personally I’m not for it. Or maybe I just would have liked to have seen some kind of public awareness or debate before they sprung it on us. Whatever your thoughts on the ads, it doesn’t matter because they will be there for at least 6 months.

Quick recap, they will take up what translink calls “small ads” on their cards. It’s important to note that the ads take up almost half of the pass. Translink also tells us that the ads will take in a minimum of $84,000 per year. Seems like a lot right? Well if you take into account how many people buy the pass it’s not really. They’re also not really explicit about where the money is going.

The buzzer blog has a great debate, list of complaints and a few positive thoughts on the card. I recommend checking it out here. If you’re not interested in sorting through all of those comments, let me run down a few key points.

The negatives:

  • The ads are just ugly. They take up half of the pass and you shouldn’t even think about trying to cover it with your own art, stickers or cutting that part off. That voids the pass and you’re out $81.
  • The ads are in your face. They could have done a better job of hiding it (U-Pass has ads on it, did you ever notice? They’re pretty discrete).
  • The only people looking at the ads are the bus drivers and transit police. Really counterproductive if you think about it.
  • It’s intrusive. We’re being inundated with ads everywhere on Translink, at the stops and stations, on the buses and trains and now on the farecards. I like this comment: “we’re not NASCAR”
  • The ad’s (as well as the ones on the bus/train/stations/stops) contents are insulting. This lengthy comment on the buzzer article, is well worth the read. I couldn’t have said it better myself:

If you’re going to extend the reach of advertising further (not something I’m personally against), let’s sit down and talk about how to do so in a positive way that also helps you to promote TransLink’s image, and that of transit use in general.

The sample ad in the graphic featured in this post is a perfect example; let me explain:

Advertising is a huge conscious and subconscious force in our lives and environments; ads are meant to target consumers, but the choice of ads in any given setting sends people a message about that setting. In the Rogers Arena, for instance, much of the advertising is for prestigious national brands, or for big-name consumer products and services (Rogers, or course, but also think of the names on the boards). When I get on a TransLink bus, the ads send the following message: this is a place/service for people who haven’t finished high school, can’t speak/read English, have mental health problems, need debt counselling, or appreciate the cheapest possible knock-off designer glasses. Yikes! Get me out of here!

By all means, use advertising to raise revenue; this is no big sin, but keep in mind the message that the ads on transit send: are they telling users that this is a vehicle in which ‘normal’ citizens/consumers are common, or is this a social service for potentially pregnant teenagers, the chronically indebted, unschooled, and ‘new’ Canadians only?

I would be happy to draw on my professional experience in order to help you be more selective abou the advertising that you accept, or to work out a strategy to this effect to be implemented with the ad firm you’re currently working with. But do realize: every time someone gets on a TransLink bus (or the SkyTrain), these ads are telling them something about the service and its ‘target’ users, and I hope that it’s a message that TransLink has thought about. Even worse, no ads suggest that not even the bottom-of-the-barrel firms/service providers think that transit riders are a demographic worth pursuing – that’s really bad! And $85,000? That’s it? Hmmm…

Some of the positives:

  • It will bring in an extra $84000 a year… minimum. So that may only be $7000 a month but that is $7000 more than without the ads. And people who pay for these farecards aren’t spending anymore. If this could prevent a further hike in fare it’s worth having to look at them.
  • Who looks at their pass? You flash it at the driver/skytrain attendant and shove it back in your pocket/wallet/purse. Is it really bothering you that much or are we just complaining to complain?
  • The opportunity to advertise things of worth. Soap, shampoo, showers, a list of manners. I’m going to agree with another of those Buzzer comments, we should raise money to buy an ad and direct people towards some place that could educate them on riding transit politely (cough*thisblog*cough).
  • 2 different types of farepasses could be made available. One without ads, at a slightly higher cost (although as it was pointed out, each pass with an ad is bringing in about $0.05/month) and a second one with the ad a slightly lower rate.

I think my biggest peeve is that they’re not being very transparent about where the money will be going. Is this for funding the Evergreen Line? For increasing current services? I also don’t think that looking at the same ad everyday is very effective. In fact I’d probably not use the service (if they actually printed ads that applied to me) because I was annoyed with their bad decision in advertising.

Just looking at that MTI ad above is grating on me. If that was on my pass I’d be pulling it out of my purse everyday, seeing the ad and then start singing their stupid jingle (I just spent 10 minutes scouring the internet for an audio of it, cannot find it anywhere. It’s like the internet wants to forget it exists, too bad radio doesn’t). NOBODY NEEDS TO HAVE THAT STUPID JINGLE IN THEIR HEAD!

Any comments or suggestions? What are your thoughts on the ads?

**Full disclosure: I don’t actually use the farecard, my workplace has a corporate bus pass program so it doesn’t necessarily effect me. If they put ads on my year-long pass and I’m going to be pissed.**


About Jen S

The purpose of life is to find humorous blog material
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4 Responses to Yay or Nay?

  1. Matt says:

    I completely agree with the analysis of transit advertising in general. We’re not worthy of big brands advertising to us? I’m a well paid professional and I see a lot of suits on Skytrain every day. Who’s falling down here, is it Translink or the advertising company they’ve contracted that doesn’t known how to pitch properly to potential advertisers about the shifting demographics of transit users.

    As for the ads themselves, $84,000/year, or $7,000 per month, what was the cost to institute the program? To research and design the ads? The ongoing administrative costs of the program in staff time? Are we even going to be in the black and was it even worth the effort with such a pitiful amount of money? Again it focuses right back to the idea transit users are lesser members of society and not worth big advertising dollars.

    You can’t alter the pass, sure, but how about a sticker on the plastic cover? That way the sticker can be reused for months as well (assuming the ad stays in the same spot month-to-month). How about some positive social marketing in this spot, how much are little stickers to print?

  2. Boris Mann says:

    Yup, $84K is a miniscule amount of money. If it takes only one person to work on the ad program, then in all likelihood that $84K just barely covers their fully loaded cost.

  3. Kenny Wu says:

    The press release does say *minimum* of 84K, but we can’t see the contract so it’s impossible to see how much they are actually making from this. I find no problem with the advertising at all; it’s a good revenue source that Translink by conventional wisdom should take advantage of. If you don’t like the ad you don’t have to read it, nor do you have to be insulted. Why be?

  4. $84,000 will cover the salary of one bus driver.

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