Thursday, February 24, 2005

Atlanta descends to 'tunnel vision'

In the latest intrusion of captive-audience advertising on our otherwise peaceable lives, five flat-screen TVs soon will be bolted in every car of Atlanta's subway system.

The first known transit-TV system is the brainchild of New York's The Rail Network Inc., which has inked a 10-year deal to bring tunnel vision to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, whose appetite for cash clearly outweighs any sense of decency.

Like it or not, MARTA passengers soon will be force-fed news from WSB-TV that is larded with "advertising in amounts consistent with network television's morning or evening news broadcasts." Early sponsors are MetroPCS, Chevrolet, Cadillac and American InterContinental University.

Choo-choo TV will feature closed captioning in English and Spanish, and audio will be available to passengers equipped with FM receivers on either their radios or cellphones. Rail Net plans to hand out 230,000 free FM radios to help commuters tune in. Commuters will be encouraged to use headsets, so as not to disturb fellow travelers.

In addition to underground video, the service will offer three music channels and will carry text service messages and even emergency bulletins, as necessary, from our vigilant friends at the Department of Homeland Security.

Apart from the inordinate nusiance value of this nascent medium, I have serious doubts about its effectiveness.

As a long-time subway rider in my native Chicago, I suppose I was subliminally aware of the hemorrhoid and career-college advertisments plastered in each clattering car. But the ads didn't make an impression, because I was in the merciful state of suppressed intellectual arousal that helped me tune out the jerks of the train. And the sight, sounds and smells -- ohmigod, the smells! -- of the jerks riding on it.

Setting aside my concerns over the video pollution imposed on my fellow commuters, how will Rail Net prove the efficacy of this new medium? You can say X number of people crammed into car 6789 at 5:15 p.m. last Thursday, but how will you ever know if anyone was watching?

This idea doesn't track.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Matthew Sheffield said...

I have to give props to the subway for going through with this. It's an innovative idea and will be the future of advertising, however annoying it is.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ick. kill your television!

8:45 PM  
Blogger Don Juan Bellanouche said...

I think this idea is a great way for cash strapped transit authorities to find new revenue WITHOUT raising fares - which frankly is all I care about. The TV's feature news which is nice because it seems to fit everyone's taste. People who don't want to watch can simply choose not to watch. It seems that by using the FM audio delivery the Rail Network circumvents the "intrusive" aspect of transit-TV.

As a medium, I do think it will be a challenge, especially in Atlanta. However, if this spreads to other cities like NY, Boston, Chicago, SF or Wash DC the audience becomes much larger and more attractive to advertisers.

9:21 AM  

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