Big-screen ads to plaster BART platforms

Bay Area Rapid Transit officials voted Thursday 7-2 to approve an amendment to its advertising contract with Titan Outdoor LLC to allow digital advertising screens on the platforms of three San Francisco BART stations.

Powell, Montgomery and Embarcadero station platforms will get the digital advertising treatment starting in December.

17 of 34 poster frames along station walls will convert to digital screens. Each station will have six 82-inch digital screens with a mix of ads (50 percent), news, sports and weather (40 percent), and messages from BART (10 percent), said Catherine Westphall, a manager in BART’s advertising franchise program.

Westphall said it was possible for BART to display more messages and news relevant to riders after some directors said they wanted to see more news and information displayed from the transit agency.

BART has been testing one of the digital ad screens at the Montgomery Station since April. The transit agency conducted a random survey of 415 riders who viewed the screen at the station.

Angela Borchardt of BART’s Marketing and Research Department, said that 65 percent of riders in the survey liked the digital advertising screen, 29 percent said they were neutral and 5 percent of riders said they did not like it.

Riders were also asked about the proposal to expand the digital screens to other stations. Thirty-one percent of riders rated the proposal as ‘excellent,’ 50 percent said it was good, 16 percent said it was ‘only fair’ and only 4 percent rated the proposal as ‘poor.’

The transit agency could earn additional $1 million a year when the digital ads are fully implemented. Currently BART gets $9 million a year in advertising revenue.

Titan will spend $1.6 million to purchase and install the screens. The advertising will get reimbursed for those costs with the initial revenue generated from the digital ads.

San Francisco Beautiful Executive Director Kerstin Krehbiel said the revenue generated from the digital advertising is small and BART should look at other ways of enhancing the rider’s experience:

“It doesn’t represent a change in your bottom line though it does represent a blighting to our transit stations.”

San Francisco Beautiful is the same organization that opposed another Titan contract earlier this week that allowed the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to increase the number of window advertising wraps on Muni buses.

BART directors Robert Raburn and Tom Radulovich voted against the contract. Raburn said that the transit agency will have very little control on what the screens will display.

Radulovich added that the advertising company controls what gets displayed at the stations while the transit agency always has to work around the ads to display its messages to riders.

The transit agency said the stations and locations are still preliminary pending a final review by BART’s engineers.