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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.

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