Thursday, April 05, 2007

Video Ads on Subways -- and Art

According to a recent news article, ads are now springing up in subway tunnels between the stations. These "video ads" act like cartoon flip-books: A series of images is lit up by individual spotlights if a train passes by at 25mph or faster. The moving train allows the images to be displayed at 24+ frames per second, which is enough to give the illusion of a movie, more or less. Or, at least, it looks cool.

BART is now doing "video" ads in its subway tunnels between stations in San Francisco, and I recently had the opportunity to view the first batch. Pretty interesting stuff, and better than a blank tunnel wall.

According to the article referenced above, however, a new generation of ads will soon be installed that uses LED screens so that the ads can be changed more rapidly & easily -- and controlled remotely.

What I propose is a "Percent for Art" policy, to be implemented when the LED screens are installed. Basically, a certain percentage of the content being cycled on the LED screens would be non-commercial, and produced by local artists on commission to the transit agency. The article states that these ads bring in revenue upwards of $50k a month. Surely, that would allow enough padding for an artist to receive a small commission of, say, $2,000 to produce a quick piece of video art that could be displayed in between the ads on such a system.

I would propose that the art be randomly interspersed with the ads, varying between a rate of 1/3 art, 2/3 ads and 2/3 art, 1/3 ads, depending on, perhaps, time of day.

This would be a great way to expose transit passengers to art, while also building ad revenue to offset the costs of operations for transit agencies -- not to mention supporting the local art community.

BART has a lot of miles of tunnels where this could be installed, as does San Francisco's MUNI.

In addition, Tri-Met's Westside Light Rail tunnel in Portland, OR offers a couple of miles worth of unspoiled tunnel real estate where such an installation could be an instant hit. I'm particularly fond of this idea, because it is the only significant tunnel on Tri-Met's system, and would offer a premier showcase for both ads and art to Portland-area commuters. Plus, Tri-Met already has a Percent for Art program, so the concept of building this into a new advertising contract should not be new to them.

This is an exciting new 21st-century technology and medium for communications. Let's not waste it all entirely on just commercial content.

Let's make sure there's a percentage for art.


1 comment:

Kelly said...

What a great idea! This would be a benefit to both artists and advertisers, since people who watch the ads regularly would tune out after a while. We're so used to advertising, but to infuse it with art once in a while would keep the animations fresh and interesting.

I think it would also help commuters feel valued by the transit system as opposed to seeing them only as consumers. What a treat that would be!