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History Channel Takes Over New York's First Ad-Covered Subway Train

By Michael O'Connell October 6, 2008, 11:28 AM EDT

The "full body wrap" is a new option in advertising offered by New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Photo: Sam Chase/History

Some New York commuters got an eyeful of some genuinely unsubtle marketing Friday morning when the Metropolitan Transit Authority unveiled its first subway train completely covered in “full body wrap” advertisements—with every car, inside and out, showcasing the same promotion. The campaign for History Channel series Cities of the Underworld is the first of its kind, and the MTA says it won’t be the last.

Like many transit groups throughout the United States and the world, the MTA is turning more and more to ad sales to cover the mounting costs of refurbishments, expansions, and general operations. This push is evident in an increase from $38 million to $106 million in annual advertising revenue over the last decade, and the amount of space on the trains and stations covered in ads. The biggest efforts prior to today came from Cottonelle and HBO, which were two of the early brands to advertise using the entire interior of subway cars—seats included.

According to The New York Times, the cost of wrapping just the inside of each car will bring in about $75,000 for the MTA for the month of October, the length of the Cities of the Underworld campaign. The History Channel worked with the design team at Crew Creative to execute the makeover of the shuttle train from Grand Central Station to Times Square, and the company’s “full body wrap” joins 200 other cars promoting the television series this month as well.

Looking ahead, the MTA hopes to take cues from cities like London and Boston, which have both successfully incorporated video advertisements into tunnels. Travelers in those markets can see video through the windows of their trains at various points in their ride. Plans are in motion for New York passengers to have a similar incarnation as soon as early 2009.

The next move seems fairly simple in comparison. Turnstile arms at Grand Central Station will bear their first ads from CBS later this month.

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