- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Metrorail riders yesterday got their first glimpses at animated tunnel advertisements that transit officials hope will generate millions of dollars in revenue.

Two systems installed on a Red Line tunnel wall began showing short commercials for a cable television channel and a luxury sedan. The ads are on the eastbound route between the Metro Center and Judiciary Square stations.

“Transit is a great place to reach the consumer,” said Peter M. Corrigan, chief executive officer of Submedia LLC, the New York-based firm that will install at least four animated ads in the next three years.

Although ad revenue from Metrorail stations, buses, subway cars and bus shelters is expected to total $33 million this year, traditional display ads have been absent from the tunnels.

“It’s new revenue space for us,” said Ron Rydstrom, Metro’s assistant manager for market development. The project will generate $800,000 in revenue for Metro by the end of next year.

Metro hopes to use the money to pay for passenger information systems, bomb-containment trash cans and other improvements.

The technology is based on the zoetrope, a 19th-century toy that showed short movies by twirling a cylinder near a light source. The boxes filtered light through the pictures past metal strips creating the illusion of movement.

The still pictures are mounted in backlit boxes that are 3 feet high by 4 feet wide. It takes 139 photographs to present a 15-second ad in the Metrorail system.

“Most advertisers take something that’s made for TV and take the parts that work without sound and repackage them,” said John Butziger, Submedia’s technology director.

The company has installed ads in subways in Chicago, Atlanta and New York. The ads have been running for a longer time in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Among its advertisers are Coca-Cola, United Airlines, General Motors and Target.

The first two ads locally feature Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln Zephyr and the Discovery Network’s “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” show, which airs on the Travel Channel.

The Bourdain ad shows the host driving a dog-sled team across a frozen landscape in Iceland. If response prompts an increase in local ratings, it will be used in New York and Chicago.

“We’ve got to break through the clutter just like everyone else, and this is a great way to do that,” said Patrick Lafferty, a Discovery spokesman.

Metro officials plan to survey rider reaction before committing to more ads, but the contract also includes two 12-month renewal options.

“It may make the trip a little shorter and a little more interesting,” said Dan Tangherlini, Metro’s interim general manager.

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