Digital advertising coming to Toronto TTC shelters: Astral

Changes could be coming to the Toronto Street Furniture Program after the city’s public works committee adopted a proposed amendment to the 20 year contract with Astral Media.

The contract dates back to the administration of former mayor David Miller, where Astral become responsible for the construction of bus shelters and street signs, giving the city a third of revenue, according to councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34 Don Valley East), the current chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee.

The provision, which was adopted at the April 10, 2013 committee meeting, would allow Astral to implement new creative advertising on transit shelters. These creative static copies would rotate various images every few seconds and would make a city like Toronto more prosperous, according to Lance Martin of Union Advertising who spoke on the issue at city hall.

“If we want to build new opportunities for the city, we have to see where things are now and take advantage of them,” Martin said. He added that other well known major cities across the globe such as Tokyo and Chicago have embraced the kind of digital advertising Astral wants for transit shelters. He told the committee that static ads weren’t limited to corporate advertisement but could also be used to broadcast important public messages or Amber Alerts.

Ron Hutchinson, the senior vice president of real estate at Astral was also at the meeting. He emphasized the ads aren’t full videos, so they won’t be a potential distraction to drivers and pedestrians  using the streets.

Many councillors opposed the static copy plan, including councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina).

“The way it [ads] constantly flips, is distracting to both drivers and pedestrians. We know they’re targeted towards drivers and not pedestrians. I’m worried about public safety,” Layton said. “When you’re dealing with a transit shelter, the sight lines are different. People are crossing the road or walking onto a bus, if you’re distracting them right at that point, it’s a problem.”

Hutchinson insisted the static ads would not have audio, making it less distracting to the public.

The amendment will now be considered by city council on May 7.