As Alcohol Ads Sprawl Elsewhere, New York Buses and Trains Go Dry

As Alcohol Ads Sprawl Elsewhere, New York Buses and Trains Go Dry 642 428 C-Suite Network
An ad for Svedka vodka on the entrance to a New York City subway station.
An ad for Svedka vodka on the entrance to a New York City subway station. Credit: via BAAFT

The alcohol industry has made steady gains getting ads and distribution in places where it was once banned, debuting liquor commercials in NFL broadcasts this season and expanding sales at college sports stadiums. But beer, wine and spirits marketers suffered a rare setback this week when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority banned alcohol ads on New York City buses, subway cars and stations.

The decision, which takes effect Jan. 1, could weaken efforts by brands to reach coveted millennial urban dwellers in the nation’s top media market. But the MTA’s action is likely more of a speed bump than a pothole for booze marketers, considering the relatively small amount of money in play. The authority collected a mere $2.8 million in alcohol ad revenue last year.

Overall MTA ad revenue across buses, subways, trains, stations and billboards totaled $144.8 million.

Still, the ban could have at least some impact on spending decisions and prices for other out-of-home ad space around the city.

“The pressure is on the advertising agencies that buy for these big alcohol brands to keep the ROI high and the cost down,” says Ken Sahlin, CEO of DoMedia, which operates an out-of-home advertising database. “So if there is some pressure on the supply side and demand goes up a little bit, that will put a little pressure on pricing.”

Ads for 'The Lorax' and Michelob Ultra in a New York subway station.
Ads for ‘The Lorax’ and Michelob Ultra in a New York subway station. Credit: via BAAFT

The ban was pushed by a group called Building Alcohol Ad-Free Transit, whose partners include churches and community groups in the New York metro area, according to its website. In a petition, the group argued that “hundreds of thousands of NYC schoolchildren use public transit every day as their ‘yellow school bus.'” Therefore, the group added, it is unacceptable that the MTA “would expose young people to messages glorifying…

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