New MU-themed city buses might be covered with ads

Black-and-gold additions to fleet due in September
Thursday, May 26, 2011 | 6:00 p.m. CDT; updated 6:11 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 26, 2011
Landmark Bank's full-wrap bus ads cover the entire bus.

COLUMBIA — The city is scheduled to receive three new transit buses in September that will feature a new black-and-gold paint job honoring the MU Tigers.

But there's a real possibility the MU themes will be covered with advertising.

Jill Stedem, spokeswoman for the Columbia Public Works Department, said buses with MU themes will be available to advertisers just like any others.

“We won’t stop putting advertisements on the buses just because they’re painted new colors,” Stedem said.

The city began placing ads on city buses in 2010 and has collected $73,969 in revenue since then, according to figures provided by Stedem.

The city partnered with Transit Advertising Inc. of Tulsa, Okla., after the City Council approved advertising on buses in November 2009, Stedem said.

The city keeps 60 percent of bus ad revenue; Transit Advertising keeps 40 percent, Stedem said. That means Transit Advertising collected $17,026 in fiscal 2010 and $32,286 through April of this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

Mayor Bob McDavid said advertising helps keep the buses operating.

“Transit loses $1.5 million a year," McDavid said. "It’s heavily subsidized.”

Transit rider and Columbia native Marshall Crews, 47, said he preferred the days when all the buses had the same color scheme and no advertising. The older blue-and-red buses used to match city workers' uniforms, he said. Bus drivers still wear light blue shirts and dark blue pants.

“It represents the city,” Crews said. “(Now) the city is so hard up they’ll put anything on the buses.”

Crews has been a Columbia transit rider since the '70s and now works for Truman Veterans Hospital.

"I ride two buses every day," Crews said. “And I think: Is MU buying the city of Columbia? It makes it look like a corporation, like they’re selling something.”

Marshall resident and MU fan Martin Jones rides Columbia buses when he comes to town to visit. He's used them about three times in the past six months. He said the MU color scheme "might be kind of cool.”

"But I don’t care for the ads," Jones said. "I wish it was just a regular bus."

Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl said the council decided the need for revenue from advertising outweighed concern about the uniform appearance of the buses. It was McDavid who came up with the idea for black-and-gold buses.

Currently, eight of 30 large buses feature one advertisement that covers their entire surface, according to Transit Advertising Inc. Those are known as "full wraps" and are applied to the bus with an adhesive.

Landmark Bank bought six of the full-wrap bus ads. They cost $3,200 to $4,200 to create and from $1,200 to $1,400 a month to display, according to Transit Advertising rates.

Landmark marketing director Charles Williamson said the full-wrap ads were a good choice.

“We felt the communication would be clearer and less confusing than it would be sharing the space with other companies and other messages,” Williamson said. “We feel the buses are playing an important role in our media mix.”

Crews, however, doesn't like them.

“I think they’re eyesores personally,” Crews said. “I’ve heard the drivers talking about them. They can’t understand why it’s the whole bus. You can get your point across without it being the whole bus.”

McDavid said it's possible the new MU-themed buses could also be wrapped in one ad.

“Revenue is a consideration,” McDavid said. “The revenue will supersede which buses are covered and which are not.”

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