Responding to criticism of advertising affixed to several of the Cuenca’s tram units, city officials say the commercial signage is a way to offset operational costs of the system. “It’s a valuable source of revenue that we cannot afford to pass up,” says tram director Carolina Ormaza. “We are following local and international standards in how it is displayed and make sure it is attractive and tasteful.”
The advertising first appeared on several tram cars a week ago and carries message from the DirecTV satellite television service as well as the municipality. According to Ormaza, more clients will soon be added.
The criticism of the signage has come primarily from social media and talk radio programs and much of it is uninformed, Ormaza says. “It’s a matter of personal opinion whether it is attractive or not but the claim that it obstructs the view of passengers is untrue. Anyone who rides the tram is aware that that the images are visible only from the outside of the train and are invisible from the inside.”
She adds that the advertising follows municipal rules for advertising on public spaces. By law, liquor and tobacco advertising are not accepted, as are ads that could promote drug addiction or domestic violence.
According to marketing specialist Felipe Muñoz, advertising on public transportation units, including trains, buses and subways, is used internationally to defray costs of transport systems. “If you travel in Europe and North America, you see it frequently,” he says. “We’re less sophisticated here and it may take time for people to become accustomed to it but it’s an excellent source of supplemental income. Personally, I disagree that it is an eyesore.”
Based on the experience in other cities that sell transportation advertising, Muñoz says Cuenca’s tram may be able to collect a million dollars annually, and maybe more, in revenue from the sales program. “Because it travels through high traffic areas, the tram is an excellent advertising vehicle and I predict demand will build for space on the units,” he says.
He adds that he considers much of the ad criticism to be hypocritical. “I notice that some of the complainers are people who also complain about the operational cost of the tram. Here is a way to pay some of that cost and they don’t like it.”
According to the tram office, the current deficit for annual tram operation is about $5.2 million, a number that is predicted to decline as ridership increases. Ormaza says that ridership has increased more than 200 percent since the system went commercial eight weeks ago.