NYC Uses MetroCards As Ad Outlet


New Yorkers are bombarded by thousands of commercial messages a day. Now, they’ll have one more that they can carry around in their pocket.

In a first, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has launched a new program to sell ads on the front of MetroCards. When the first of the new ads will hit remains unclear, but an MTA rep said it would be October at the earliest, due to production requirements.

The MTA is talking to numerous advertisers about the new ad avails; the rep said an announcement on the first advertiser is expected in the next week or so. “We have had around 100 expressions of interest from potential advertisers,” the rep stated in an email exchange.

Ads on the back of cards were first introduced in 1995. But the current gold-colored MetroCards have remained virtually unchanged -- and ad free -- since they were introduced in 1997.

According to the MTA, the back-of-card ads are sold in packages ranging from $25,500 up $450,000, depending on the number of cards purchased, up to 5 million. The MTA rep said that front-of-the-card ads would sell for a “premium” above the back-of-card rates.

Those premium prices would be published in the next couple of days.  

"Millions of New Yorkers carry MetroCards with them everywhere they go, and use them multiple times a day," stated MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota. "For those with a message and a desire to reach millions of people in a novel, attention-getting way, there is no better way to advertise."

The new MetroCard ad program is just one of several transit channels available to advertisers. In addition to traditional interior subway car ads, the MTA also offers subway car wraps, where messages cover both the exterior and interior of subway train cars.

Subway stations also feature billboards and digital ads, while so-called “street furniture” outside of subway entrances features digital video advertising. Bus and bus stop ads are also sold.

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