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Electronic Ads Could Be Coming to Toronto Transit Shelters

Astral Media wants to bring digital advertising to Toronto's streets.

Photo by AshtonPal, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool

Photo by AshtonPal, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Right now, you’ll only find printed ads on the sides of Toronto’s transit shelters, but some of those posters could be replaced by monitors in the near future. It’ll happen if Astral Media, the advertising company that provides the City with its street furniture, gets its way.

Astral is required, under its 20-year agreement with the City, to provide over 25,000 individual pieces of street furniture (meaning things like benches, trash cans, bike lockups, and of course, transit shelters) in exchange for the exclusive right to sell advertisements on some of them. The company is now asking for an amendment to that agreement, to permit the use of electronic advertising panels on shelters. Right now, only non-electronic ads are allowed.

These electronic ads would be backlit, digital signs, installed in the side panels where the poster ads currently go. Astral’s request will go before the City’s public works and infrastructure committee on April 10. If approved, it would still need a final go-ahead from city council. It’s not clear how widespread the new ads would be.

According to a report by City staff, Astral’s electronic ads would be designed not to be particularly annoying. They would be what’s known as “static electronic copy,” meaning no moving or blinking. The effect would be more like a slideshow: a series of different ads would appear in succession, no less than ten seconds at a time. From Astral’s perspective, some advantages would be a reduced need to print and install posters, and more ability to sell individual ad spaces to multiple advertisers. Astral has told the City that the electronic ads would be no brighter at night than the fluorescents that illuminate poster ads.

This wouldn’t be the first time the City has amended its deal with Astral. Different problems with installing the new street furniture have necessitated other changes to the original plans, one of them being the often-derided revised “InfoPillar” design, which has been criticized for being advertiser-friendly at the expense of usefulness.


  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Does this mean the city will get a larger cut? They (we) should: the current transit shelters only host two ads, so Astral charges for two ads, but video ad billboards can host dozens in the same time period, and Astral will charge for each of them.

    (I expect blinking/animated video ads within 9 months, if these are approved.)

    • SteveKupferman

      The staff report points out that the City could benefit from increased ad revenue, but it doesn’t mention anything about an increased cut.

      • SteveKupferman

        Also, some ad shelters currently have more than two ads, because they’ve got those things that switch the posters mechanically every few seconds.

        • tyrannosaurus_rek

          Good point.

    • torontothegreat

      AFAIK from working near that landscape, digital ads are cheaper. They makeup the revenue from the fact that they can show more of them. I’m not convinced any more money would be made.

  • Mark J. Richardson

    Do Rob Ford and Doug Ford still get to vote on Astral contracts before Council – since Newstalk 1010 gives them 2 hrs of free “pre-election” media each week…?

  • Joe

    Why don’t we get them to remove the “info pillars” in return for this?

  • mark_dowling

    A disastrous deal (the one most usually brought up when Fordiban claim non-Fordiban never blame Miller for anything) and we’re going to give them a better one? We’re going to have even more people complaining to TTC about these gaudy ads when they have no control over the POS “shelters” (otherwise known as walls with a shelf on top) Astral have installed already?

    Here’s the only upside I can think of: that any power supply installed in a shelter be accessible to TTC for stop displays at zero installation/capital cost to TTC and any energy consumed be metered at Astral’s cost price, no markup.

    • torontothegreat

      Great idea. However, most of the shelters are already power equipped, so I’m sure there is already a clause by Astral’s lawyers mooting that point.

  • tommy

    I’d like to know why Astral is removing perfectly good bus shelters that already exist with their shit-tastic glass monstrosities.

  • guest

    Would it be feasible to negotiate that where ever these digital ads go, the inside-the-shelter ad space gets turned over to the TTC for backlit customer info, or even better, an interactive touch screen featuring the same? This may gain Astral some favour in the public’s eye by compensating for the hated ad-heavy info pillars.

  • John

    BOOOOOOOOOOO! These will be an even bigger distraction to drivers and cyclists alike, and also create more light pollution at night.

  • naggy

    Can we sue astral if we’re in a collusion because of the flicker/distraction of these billboards?

    What happened to roads being for driving???

    In my opinion these billboards are dangerous in an urban setting where drivers should be watching for people, and not reading billboards.

    Can’t wait for the lawsuits.

    • torontothegreat

      How *american* of you…

  • Hunky69

    These shelters need more garbage bins, seats, more space and better protection from wind and rain. Bad and expensive Hogtown designs.