For a long time metro resisted advances of digital advertising. Underground platforms were decorated with small and large posters, inside metro cars all space was covered with colorful leaflets. In an attempt to increase advertising revenue even entire trains are sometimes wrapped in advertising posters turning the train into a gigantic advertising billboard. But digital advertising was not allowed underground for a long time. No fortress can last that long. Mass transit means a lot of potential clients and video is the most effective way of selling goods and services.
First attempts to install digital advertising in metro started from outside. In 2005, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority allowed to place a network of 10 mm SMD-based LED screens over entrances to subway stations in downtown New York. At that time the project was ambitions and enormously expensive. Moreover, SMD was as yet an immature technology. A few years later it became evident that the project was a mistake; it was strategically wrong to launch it at that time.
Small size LED screens lost the battle to a dynamically developing technology of plasma and LCD screens. As a result by 2009, all Lighthouse screens were replaced by gigantic TV screens protected from moisture and vandals by glass panels. These screens are not very effective during sunny days (not really numerous in New York), but offer better profit margins considering their lower cost.
However, the 2005 project played an essential role in breaking down resistance to digital advertising in transit authorities. Digital technology rushed in through the breach. Underground passages between stations, platforms and finally even train cars started getting equipped with digital displays to show newsreels and advertising clips. Projects around the world multiplied overnight: Submedia and SideTrack Technologies (competitors in the US market) launch pilot projects of tunnel video in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia: a series of digital screens located in the tunnel which light up when a train passes by.
Digital advertising in metro wins over the new space surprisingly fast. Today nobody wants to be left behind. Even Moscow metro authorities finally decided to experiment and install advertising displays in the platforms. The network turned out to be primitive but it’s still better than nothing.