MBTA Taps Its Inner Artist to Bring in More Ad Revenue

Demand for ad space on some trains is apparently so popular, the T is placing images on the ceilings of vehicles.

Riders craning their necks skyward when boarding MBTA trains, trying to avoid awkward eye contact with fellow passengers, might notice something different about the ceilings in some vehicles: more advertisements.

Called “Michelangelos” for their artistically inspired placement on the inside roofs of T trains and buses, the peculiar positioning of these ads is a new technique being tested out by the transit agency’s advertising firm, Titan.

A spokesperson from the MBTA told Boston that although Titan, who has been handling the T’s ad placement services since 2005, has always offered clients the option to promote their products by sticking images above riders’ heads, it has become more popular as space along the walls becomes limited, and really only started happening with regularity since the spring.

“In the past three to four months it’s been more well-received because people want to get their advertising on the subway, because it’s a captive audience,” said T spokesperson Kelly Smith. “People look at everything on the walls all the time when they ride the trains.”

But they also stare up at the ceilings.

Smith said more clients are starting to ask for ceiling placement specifically, because it’s “different” and the ad space is much larger than the square tiles typically seen on the walls of train cars.

The average cost for the ceiling advertisements is also double that of traditional options, which means the MBTA is bringing in additional revenue by offering the creative take on grabbing a passenger’s attention.

The “Michelangelo” approach comes on the heels of the MBTA’s commitment to wrapping entire train cars with ads, like they recently did for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and JetBlue.

“It’s just a new and different way to look at advertising and to help us bring in revenue,” said Smith.

And it seems to be working.


Steve Annear Steve Annear, Digital Writer at Boston Magazine sannear@bostonmagazine.com


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