Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Global 'Step': Titan Takes MySpace OOH

Users... Create interesting content to promote this Titan Media, Myspace synergy as a viable advertising platform so that once they have 52 million viewers' attention they can blast them with ads for sugar water.

Via Media Post

In another twist on digital tie-ups, MySpace has partnered with Titan, a global out-of-home advertiser focused on mass transit, to bring personal messages from MySpace users to high-visibility digital displays in public places.

"Step Up to the Mic" is positioned as a joint promo campaign of the companies' media potential, highlighting their value as ad platforms.

As part of the user-generated promotion, MySpace and Titan are inviting MySpace members to submit a short text message (50 characters or less) and picture online. The content will then appear on hundreds of digital screens in cities across Europe and America, including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dublin, London, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Titan's displays are concentrated in and around the mass transit infrastructure in the U.S., U.K., Ireland and Canada, including train stations, bus stops, telephone kiosks and street banners. Altogether, the digital assets involved in "Step Up to the Mic" reach 52 million viewers per month, including 15 million in the U.S. Users can also upload their message and picture at the Titan Web site.

At first glance, it may be surprising that MySpace, the world's largest social network, should feel the need to promote itself as an ad medium or raise consumer awareness. However, stats show the Fox-owned network has steadily lost market share to Facebook over the last few years, with the most precipitous declines coming in the last year.

According to recent figures from Experian Hitwise, in September, Facebook attracted 58.6% of all social network visits in the U.S., compared to just 30.3% for MySpace -- down sharply from 66.8% in September 2008.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

National Bestseller

National Bestseller is an ongoing project in collaboration with the outdoor advertising companies operating NYC phone kiosks, including VanWagner, and Titan Media. This recent image was put up on Broadway between Boerum and Union avenue in Brooklyn. Each piece is made up of one entire booked striped of its spine and pasted back together. Every 10th piece gets a treatment in red. Often attacking illegal advertiement in NYC, this project confronts legal ads on the street in an effort to express my interest in an advertisement free public space.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Transit Authority Feeling the Pain From a Crippled Advertising Market has had their eye on Titan for some time, including a recent post which ecstatically awaits a possible impending bankruptcy. This recent post, I assume was due to a recent NY times article (reproduced below) about the companies problems paying it's debts, including a large sum owed to our very own MTA.

What perplexes me is the sympathy we give to these companies that time and time again reap huge profits, flagrantly disregard the law, take advantage of our public thoughts and identities all under the guise of floating our precious public services. Public payphones, irreplaceable in the event of a "terrorist attack", yet entirely unused in our wireless world, are kept operational by their use as advertising shelters. Unnecessary news stand replacements were ushered in by Cemusa, declaring a cleaner vision and utility for the cities street furniture, cost defrayed by ad contracts which excluded stand owners. And most importantly, our Metropolitan Transit Authority, seemingly unable to function without the precious advertising revenue, and yet we aren't even getting paid.

Published: May 24, 2009

The worst advertising market in decades has had a devastating, and well-documented, effect on newspapers, magazines and television networks. But now another recipient of ad dollars is being hurt by the market slump at a time it can little afford it: mass transit.

In recent months, a company that sells many of the ads that appear on buses and trains and in stations in New York, Boston, Minneapolis and other cities has come up short in its payments to transit agencies, citing a sharp drop in ad rates and sales.

New York is among the hardest hit.

The company, Titan Worldwide, fell short a total of $7.5 million in mandatory payments to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from February through April, citing lower than expected ad sales. That would be enough to buy 16 new buses for the authority, which recently received a state bailout in the face of multibillion-dollar budget deficits over the next few years.

“This is another example of the M.T.A.’s exposure to the global economic recession,” said Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the authority, which plans to raise fares and tolls by about 10 percent in June.

Titan sells ads that appear on buses and in Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road trains and stations, including Grand Central Terminal.

Another company, CBS Outdoor, sells ads in the subway system, and it fulfilled its contractual requirement of making a $55 million lump-sum payment to the authority in January for all of 2009.

A CBS spokeswoman, Jodi Senese, said that subway sales in New York remained strong, in spite of the overall industry slump, partly because of new types of ads in the system, like those on the exterior of subway cars.

Companies like Titan and CBS make money by contracting with transit agencies and agreeing to sell ads that appear in their buses, trains and stations. The ad company agrees up front to make guaranteed payments to the transit agency or pay it a percentage of the receipts, whichever is greater. The company keeps the rest for expenses and profits.

At the end of the year, both Titan and CBS may be required to increase their payments to the authority, if a designated percentage of total sales exceeds what has already been paid.

Titan still owes the authority an additional amount for last year’s ad sales. The company would not say how much it owed but said it intended to make the payment this year.

The authority is negotiating with Titan over its inability to make its required monthly payments, and neither side would give details of the talks.

“We’re trying to work with them to find a way to keep this contract in place,” Mr. Donovan said. “Our goal is to work it out and minimize the impact on the M.T.A.’s bottom line.”

Titan’s chairman, William Apfelbaum, said that ad rates and sales have plummeted with the distressed economy, pushing the company’s sales revenue this year down about 25 percent.

“In my 30-plus years in the business there’s never been a year that was down versus the prior year,” he said. “This is a first.”

Mr. Apfelbaum said that he hoped to renegotiate his agreements with transit agencies “to keep us from suffering catastrophic losses.”

Titan’s problems are much the same nationwide.

In Boston, Titan fell $321,000 short in its payment for March and April to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and it has told the authority, according to a spokesman, Joe Pesatauro.

“This news from Titan certainly is not helping the situation,” said Mr. Pesatauro, explaining that the authority is grappling with a projected budget deficit of $160 million for the fiscal year that starts on July 1.

In Minneapolis and St. Paul, Titan paid Metro Transit, which provides bus and light rail service, about $100,000 less than the required $1 million payment for the first three months of this year, according to Bruce Howard, the transit agency’s director of marketing. He said that ad sales during the period were about 20 percent below what they were the previous year.

Transit officials in Chicago, Philadelphia and with San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system said that they had also been approached by Titan to renegotiate contract terms.

The slump comes at an inopportune time for transit agencies, which have been hit hard by shrinking tax revenues and, in some cases, decreasing ridership.

Ad revenues make up only a small portion of total revenues at the agencies, but transit officials have been seeking to maximize income from such sources to help relieve the pressure for fare increases.

According to the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database, transit agencies nationwide reported $334 million in ad revenue in 2007. That was about one percent of total operating funds.

In New York, bus ad rates vary depending on what part of the city the buses travel, with rates in Manhattan being the highest, though the rates have been lowered in response to the slumping ad market. In Manhattan, an ad that covers one side of a bus typically sells for about $1,500 a month. At this time last year, the same ad sold for about $1,800, Mr. Apfelbaum said.

Warner Brothers came to us and said, ‘We want the same exact schedule as last year but we’re going to pay 20 percent less or you’re not going to get it,’ ” Mr. Apfelbaum said, referring to the number of ads placed by the entertainment company.

Mr. Apfelbaum said that while there are also fewer ads being sold, his company makes sure it keeps the ad spaces on buses and trains and in stations filled, because empty space would look bad.

Sometimes, he said, Titan will put up more ads than a customer has paid for, to fill what would be empty space.

Titan was created in 2001 and it has worked aggressively to win transit contracts.

The company received the New York bus and commuter rail contract in December 2006. It agreed to make a minimum guaranteed payment of $823 million over the course of the 10-year contract, $103 million more than the next-highest offer. The minimum payments this year come to $5.4 million a month.

As part of the contract, the company also agreed to pay the authority 72.5 percent of sales each year, if that amount was greater than the minimum payment. Mr. Apfelbaum said that is the highest percentage in the industry.

But Mr. Apfelbaum said he had not overbid to win the contract.

“This contract, in any kind of normal time, any year in my 35 years in the business except for 2009, is a profitable contract,” he said.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Future To Come And The Future That's Here

The language advertising companies use is often indicative of their motives. When Titan Media declares that their new digital bus ads are "bright and unavoidable..", it gives you a good sense of what their intentions are. And when outdoor advertising is talked about as being "bright and unavoidable", the average citizen should realize that this means they will be absorbing these messages even if they think they are hardened New Yorkers trained at keeping their eyes glued to the pavement as they pass through their public environment. We should not have to physically alter the way we move and visualize our public space in order to avoid contact with the "bright and unavoidable". Instead we should demand our visual environment back from outdoor advertising and perpetrate its removal in any way possible.

from Gothamist John Del Signore

The MTA is currently testing out new digital screens that display ads on the sides of buses running on the M23 route. The screens, which use GPS technology to change according to each neighborhood's demographic, are being installed by New York-based ad company Titan Worldwide; the company's website declares that the 12-foot displays "are bright and unavoidable and will enable advertisers to target mass audiences by time of day, block, zip-code, demography and ethnicity." Yay!

As Titan's marketing director tells the Post, "In the morning, we can show Starbucks, and on the way home from work, a Budweiser ad." You can see where this is going; Bugaboo ads for Park Slope, Rohypnol for the Meatpacking District, and in Williamsburg, flashy ads for Neighborhoodies and machetes. The M23's test run currently sports ads for Oreo, Sleepy's, Coca-Cola and Sprite; a spokesman says that if successful, they'll install them on about 200 buses next year. Then in 2010, up in your cerebral cortex! Click through for a video of the Dunkin Donuts bus ad in action.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

The View From Inside the Ad-Wrapped Bus

VIA Ban Billboard Blight
Ever wonder what it’s like to look out the window of one of those buses shrink-wrapped in advertising? This photo gives a pretty good idea. But maybe it doesn’t matter, because you’ll be glued to the monitor running video ads inside the bus, or mesmerized by the print ads covering most available surfaces. After all, by riding the bus you’ve voluntarily joined a captive audience, haven’t you? And where does it say you have the right to enter a public space without being confronted by a 360-degree assault of messages to buy products and services?

The MTA and other public transit agencies will eagerly tell you that selling public property as ad space is the alternative to higher fares. So why don’t we wrap the MTA headquarters building, which towers above its downtown surroundings and offers a panoramic view of the city? Why shouldn’t MTA executives and board members have the same kind of view as the riders inside the bus?

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Coming soon to Philadelphia: Digital Ads on Buses?!?

Lets all remember Titan Outdoor also has the only contract to display ad content on the 3,300 buses in service for the MTA.

If Titan Outdoor has their way, Philadelphia's neighborhood streets will soon be home to hundreds of buses outfitted with eye-poppingly bright, flashing, blinking, digital advertising on the sides.

Titan Outdoor manages advertising on transit vehicles and in stations for SEPTA. In September, Titan Outdoor and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) announced their plans to install digital advertising panels to the sides of 100 Chicago buses. SCRUB's hunch is that Titan will be wooing SEPTA to do the same here.

Not everyone in Chicago will be subjected to these rolling LED displays. CTA has determined that Chicago's upscale Lake Shore Drive will be off-limits for the rolling digital ads. The rest of the city, however, is fair game. News coverage of the Chicago deal suggests that the ads will change based on the neighborhood. This raises important questions about this program if implemented here in Philadelphia, a city with a history of advertisers who target low-income neighborhoods with messages for alcohol, sugary beverages and fast food.

Additionally, there is the clumsy mismatch between SEPTA's appealing "Go Green, Go SEPTA" campaign and the sizable carbon footprint of digital advertising. From data we have seen, SCRUB's estimate is that 100 digital bus ads is the rough equivalent of two 1,200 square foot digital billboards. It would take the planting of approximately 9,000 trees each year to off-set the carbon impact of 100 digital bus ads. This is "going green"?

And, what about safety? The traffic engineering community is extremely concerned about driver distraction and road safety. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study in 2006 that found that drivers who take their eyes off the road for two seconds or longer have a significantly increased crash risk. Can Philadelphia's pedestrians, cyclists and drivers afford to have yet more dangerous distractions on our city streets?

SCRUB supports SEPTA's efforts to provide the region with public transportation and appreciates their on-going financial challenges. But, we have also witnessed SEPTA's willingness to go along with just about anything Titan Outdoor suggests - such as the illegal 4400 square foot Duncan Donuts wallwrap placed on the 1234 Market Street building, the widely-reviled advertising wrapped Colt 45 bus, and most recently, the Market-Frankford El stations plastered in ads for Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Let's hope that this time, SEPTA has the good sense to say "No thanks."

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