The Beginning of the End of Bus Wraps?

Posted April 3rd, 2012 @ 8:12 AM by

Music to my ears! Sanity returns to City of Madison government! It’s things like this that had me voting for Paul Soglin!

From the Board of Estimates yesterday. The issue was that Madison Metro wants to dump its contract with Adams Outdoor advertising for the advertising on the buses and to it in house. They think they can sell more ads and have more control over what goes on the buses – by talking to the advertisers early on and maybe getting them to remove the more offensive content (shot glasses, guns, etc.) Here’s the discussion.

Mayor Paul Soglin says he knows Mike Verveer has some questions.

Chuck Kamp, Madison Metro Manager and staff Mick Rusch (marketing manager) and Peg Anthony (in charge of commute card sales) come to the table.

Mike Verveer asks Chuck Kamp if he’s like to do an overview.

Kamp says in 2008 Metro Long Range Ad Hoc Plan set a goal for Metro to get 1% of their budget through advertising revenues. With a budget of $53M, that is about $530,000. We are on the 6th year of 6 year contract with Adams. The contract has been satisfactory but they are trying to reach that goal and our staff have been looking since 2011 at ways to reach the target. Right now we are getting the minimum $425,000 in revenue. This year we will get the minimum of $450,000 and they think they can hit the 1% target in house and they would like to not rebid the contract.

Verveer says he has never been a fan of the exterior advertising on the vehicles and he continues to be offended by the full wrap buses. So, when he read the resolution, he had no problem bringing this in house and ending the relations with Adams. He has two issues with the language in the preamble, he says that Metro would continue to follow the Metro advertising policy and the bus wrap policy program with the only change being who sells the ads. He says the last time the council voted on this issue, he says that the resolution said that we would allow 20 full wrap buses. He says that he thought when the contract ended they were going to revisit this, especially now that we have a mayor that is not as enamored with advertising. But the mayor can speak for himself himself. He thought they would revisit all this and he says that if they approve this they would continue to have 20 wrapped buses in addition to the King Kongs and other partial wraps. Can you talk to the issue of exterior advertising.

Kamp says that staff decided to reach the 1% revenue goal they would need to continue the 20 full bus wraps, we know that has been controversial in the past as well as the ad content policy. He knows they are subject to review, he recalls Verveer asking them to review this again. He says that is their intent, we understand this is subject to review and changes. There are two things here, one is to bring this in house and the other is the policy. As a staff recommendation Mike Verveer asks Chuck Kamp if he’s like to do a quick presentation. As a staff recommendation they think they can hit that current policy of one percent with the full wrap configuration.

Verveer asks if it is their intention to bring the ad policy, he knows the issue of military advertising has been a recent issue in the community, so in terms of the content policy and the overall advertising program, was it your intent to have the TPC (Transit and Parking Commission) review that.

Kamp says we just knew that it would come up for discussion, we were open to the possibility it would change, but they thought it could be on parallel tracks, the issue of the in house and the advertising policy. At this point, they wanted to make it clear their recommendation is to continue the policy to reach the goal.

Verveer asks if the Common Council were to change the policy in the new budget, if we no longer support 20 or full wraps, if we move away from the existing policy and allow the passengers to fully see out the windows again, that begs the question, how would we fund and would we have adequate funding for the position. He fully supports bringing the work in house, and this position, but if we do not allow the full wrap buses in the how would that affect the position.

Mick Rusch says that in terms of the 20 full wraps, we’ve never hit the 20. They are not a popular item.

Verveer says that he heard that, he watched the last TPC meeting. But the TPC didn’t ask for the number.

Rusch say they have about 6 – 8.

Verveer asks if that is the most they ever had?

Rusch says the most they ever had was 2 years ago in March we had all 20 for about a month. U.S. Cellular bought 10 and that brought us up to about 20, but we have been hovering under 10 and we have never approached that mark, they are very expensive and that is one of the reasons they are not very popular.

Verveer says it just seems like you have a lot more on the road.

Kamp says sometimes a half wrapped bus seems like a full wrap, until you see the other side. The half wrap has been fairly popular. He also says that they could adjust their revenues but there would still be enough to pay for the position.

Verveer asks if he is comfortable with that? If we revise the policy, it still makes sense to bring this in house.

Kamp says that it would be appropriate to revisit the 1% policy at that time.

Satya Rhodes-Conway asks if it would be easier to get the high school poetry program implemented.

(Something is said off camera/mic)

Rhodes-Conway says we can disagree whether it is covered adequately or not, but she is looking at future years. ARe we going to be able to have one placard per student poem moving forward.

Rusch says yes, (inaudible comments off mic)

Lauren Cnare asks if there is anyone else who is paid commission for their work.

Kamp says that Monona Terrace has a position that is paid a commission.

Cnare asks about more opportunity to regulate the content of the ads. Do you have to rewrite a policy and what do you need to regulate in the ads.

Kamps says Rusch can address specifics, but we can follow the current policy, so if there is a legal ad but is very loud, we can have discussions, and it is easier to control those discussions if it is with Mick’s staff than if it is with someone else. That is what we mean by control the content.

Rusch says that we are aware that this body may be unhappy with some of the content, we are also hearing those complaints from customers,and we are well aware of what the public does not find acceptable. Adams has been running alcohol advertising, for example they run it by us, and we have to accept it, but they do change the creative. One ad he asked them to take off the picture of the shot glasses and the bottle and just run the logo because it was really in your face. They did that, but it was after all the design and there was a little hemming and hawing and we asked them to take it off. The Pabst buses, the were all ready to go and we said one of the buses was going to cause a lot of complaints and we asked them to reconsider which they did. They would work with the advertisers right away and work to create an ad from the ground up that will be acceptable to the public. Starting early will help with that.

Cnare asks about contracts that overlap, are there any prohibition to reupping the contract.

Rusch says there is a sunset clause in there where whatever they sell to the end to the end of the year we pay them a commission, but there isn’t anything we couldn’t approach other people. It would be a seamless transition.

Cnare asks something I can’t hear, Rusch says no.

Rusch adds that he doesn’t want to mislead but its around 10 wraps, he doesn’t think it is anywhere near 20, he doesn’t want to mislead them.

Mayor asks if there are any questions.

Larry Palm says its “time to wrap it up”. Har, har.

Mayor asks for discussion.

Verveer says he won’t make any arguments, he says they know how he feels, he has talked about it for years and years. He says he would be comfortable moving forward with it, but he’d like to make an amendment deleting the language in the preamble but he realizes that others may have issues with paying for the position without that language. He asks if the mayor wants to weigh in on referral vs an amendment.

Mayor asks if there is any objection to him speaking, there is none. Mayor says very simple, he would like to get away from all of the wrap around advertising. I think in a city that is trying to minimize billboards, even tho we don’t always have choices in the matter, having our own rolling billboards is a bit of a contradiction. In addition, an issue he was not aware of, he has been fortunate when he has been on a bus he has not been in a wrap around bus, but I’m told, by council member Verveer, that when it comes to wrap around buses it makes it difficult for people to see outside and to see their environment. So, for both of those reasons, he would like them not to adopt anything that commits them to continuing with the wrap around program. He doesn’t know if referral is in order or if there should be an amendment.  Happy Dance!  A mayor that “gets it”!

Solomon says that he agrees with that statement even tho he voted for bus wraps quite reluctantly. He likes the idea they are proposing, he says that he didn’t read this as committing them to bus wraps because it is in the preamble, but he likes the idea of taking it out. If for no other reason, if they decide to change the policy, I’d hate to do one thing that indicates that they are linked. Either way he is fine, but he would be more comfortable and it would serve us better to leave our options open later on to take out the language about the full wraps.

Rhodes-Conway says that the number or wrap policy is something that was in the budget and so this says we can amend the 2012 budget and this discussion will have to happen in the 2013 budget, she likes bringing it in house, she hopes this would allow them to think more creatively about revenue and she thinks the question of if we can support a full-time person without bus wraps is one that we need to be ready, Chuck needs to be ready, to discuss during the 2013 budget process because that is the biggest question. What she is hearing is not if we drop the number from 20 to 10, but if we eliminate the full wraps or only allow the King Kong wraps, or some other dramatic reduction in what is allowed, would it still make fiscal sense. Is that so impossible that we shouldn’t set that up for the 2013 budget or should we move forward. She doesn’t have a strong feeling about the language. She’s be happy to support an amendment.

Mayor says that if we go with Adams we are really locked in for the duration of the contract, so his belief is because we can and because it would be better to do this in house and because it gives us greater flexibility, we should make the decision to go in house. That said, we have to go in with our eyes open. Which is, if we make a change in policy in regards for wrapped buses and have created and hired this position we will face a couple challenges. Funding the position with a significant loss in revenues, but also for the person doing the position, it will leave them with a challenge and make their job more interesting. It may be such that the city will have to absorb some of this cost itself. It won’t be a revenue neutral position.

Palm says he’s ok with an internal staff person and the deletion of the language. We change policy all the time. When we added IZ we didn’t add people and we deleted IZ we didn’t delete people, he doesn’t know if that is the process we go through. He says we would continue to have a contract with Adams if we didn’t have a person.

Kamp says they are due to go out to bid again.

Palm says we would have a contract with someone without an internal staff person, we would still be paying someone.

Mayor says that is more accurate.

Palm say in the budget it is either x or x divided by y and they have to come up with that and we make them whole or we cut services, I presume we are not doing that, but somehow that has to be equal and so he is supporting it, regardless of what you do with the language.

Clausius says that he supports it the way it is on here, he supports it going to an in house representative on here, cuz possibly we can get away from having the bus wraps. He’s always supported those, but in the 2013 budget we have to figure out how to make up the revenue loss on here. Not to have that, but he’ll support this tonight on here. It is pretty much understood this will come up in the 2013 budget.

Verveer makes a motion to delete language in second paragraph – three sentences. The paragraph would read that by using an in house program Metro would control content etc . . . and make that sentence be part of the first paragraph.

Solomon wants language about increased flexibility and asks that it be thrown in there since it was an important part of the discussion.

Mayor says he is not comfortable throwing it in, asks to vote on the first amendment then he can work on a place to throw it in.

Amendment passes with one no. (Cnare?)

Solomon adds the language.

Cnare asks what flexibility means?

Rusch asks in terms of the content?

Cnare says I don’t know, I’m asking.

Solomon says also in terms of options.

Rusch says that it gives them flexibility in terms of the wraps, you can decide whenever you want, we won’t be held to do anything, we wouldn’t have to wait to the end of a 3 or 6 year contract and they can work right away with the advertisers with the content to make it acceptable to what the Madison folks find acceptable on the buses. It might not be perfect but it would be better to get in on the ground floor with the designers to tell them where we are coming from instead of jumping in at the end.

Cnare says it sounds like power, not flexibility, but you may have it.

Motion passes.

Main motion with two amendments passes seemingly unanimously.

Categories: | Madison | Media

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