Front of NYC's MetroCard Now Prime Ad Space

Your Ad Here (photo by Kate Hinds)

The New York MTA is hoping the MetroCard could dramatically change -- for a price.

The transit agency is now soliciting ads for the front of the cards, which, barring a color switch from blue to yellow, have been more or less unchanged since their 1993 introduction. Previously, ad space had only been for sale on the back.

The agency has been trying to increase ad revenue for some time. It's wrapped subway cars in ads. It runs commercials on digital panels positioned outside subway stations (see below). It's exploring selling ad space in subway tunnels. It runs ads on its website.

Example of a "digital urban panel" ad at a subway station (photo by Kate Hinds)

According to the MTA's rate sheet, it costs anywhere from 18 to 51 cents per card to advertise on the back of MetroCards, with a minimum order of 50,000 cards. An agency spokesman said that while rates for the front are unpublished right now, they'd command a "premium." But once companies buy in, they have free rein to redesign the MetroCards any way they see fit.

Paul Fleuranges, the MTA's senior director of corporate and internal communications, said "the only (design) constraint is the big black band on the bottom." In other words: the front no longer would have to say MTA -- or even MetroCard. And it sure doesn't have to be yellow. Just leave the magnetic strip alone.

(Fleuranges did say that the "insert this way/this side facing you" text below the black strip would likely remain on the card.)

"It's valuable real estate if you're an advertiser," said Fleuranges, who said that no deals had been inked, but that a few companies had made inquiries.

To sweeten the deal for potential advertisers, he said, the MTA can target where the cards are sold. "We can microplace your card in up to ten stations," said Fleuranges. So if advertisers wanted their cards sold only at stations along the Lexington Avenue line between 14th and 86th Streets in Manhattan, they'll be accommodated.

In an email that accompanied the press release, MTA chairman Joseph J. Lhota said: “Millions of New Yorkers carry MetroCards with them everywhere they go, and use them multiple times a day. 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.”