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[Comments] (4) : On a subway platform in New York City, there's a wide variety of ads. Lots of billboards on the wall, each an ad for something different. But when you enter a subway car, the whole car is usually dedicated to a single kind of ad. Why are platform ads sold differently than car ads?

(This only changed recently. A few years ago, all cars featured variety in their ads. Now almost all cars are dedicated to a single type of ad, which means you encounter Dr. Zizmor less often.)

I thought about this and came up with a couple reasons. First, there are a lot more car spaces than platform spaces. Probably 500x as many car spaces. Maybe the MTA looked at their numbers and saw an individual car ad was costing more to manage than it was producing. So they started forcing advertisers to buy an entire car's worth of ads at a time.

Second: a single platform ad will have about the same effect as a whole car of car ads. People usually sit still in a subway car, but they walk along the platform when they get out. Everyone in a subway car will walk by a few platform ads on their way in and out, but within a car they will only see the ads in front of them.

And while the people are sitting down, the subway cars are moving through the stations. An ad on the subway platform will be seen by people in the facing car. So, to make sure a carload of people sees your ad, you either need to buy up the entire car's ads, or one or two of the platform ads facing that car.

I've also noticed that movies are only advertised on the platforms, and booze is only advertised in the cars. (TV shows are advertised in both places.) What's the pattern?

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Posted by Susie at Wed Oct 20 2010 00:21

I think you need to start taking something to read on the subway...

Posted by Space Hobo at Wed Oct 20 2010 06:13

The interesting thing would be to see if whatever logic is behind this change in New York spreads to other cities. The London Underground continues in the old scattershot tradition today, but perhaps the olympics in 2012 will encourage experimentation like this.

Posted by kirkjerk at Thu Oct 21 2010 09:36

I think in Boston it's almost the opposite...

Sometimes stations get (nearly) completely bought about, especially some of the big hubs like Park Street and South Station; I think Nike has bought out Park St. especially around Boston Marathon time, recently it was this series of related Penguin adds by the Aquarium, right now it's promoting some new Converse store. And South Station has had both 100% Palm Pre coverage and 100% iPod Touch coverage.

I sometimes get worried when I see ads that are way out of date, because the Boston T system is kinda underfunded as it is, and that seems like a decent way for them to be getting some cash. (The buses in particular often have just a few or very old ads, which I'm sure is suggestive of some demographic perceptions.)

Posted by Leonard at Thu Oct 21 2010 12:37

I guess you're not paying for the ad, you're paying for someone to *change* the ad.

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