Metro-North Railroad Doubles Advertising Revenue with Digital Media in Grand Central Terminal

The majesty of Grand Central Terminal’s Main Concourse must be maintained without advertising clutter. So the four minimalist advertising signs, originally named dioramas, have always attracted premier, luxury brands.

This prime location has become even more sought after with the introduction in November 2011 of digital media displays that change every 15 seconds to replace the static transparences that previously were manually changed monthly.

Advertising revenues for the digital format in 2012 jumped 197 percent over the static ad revenues in 2011. Overall advertising revenues to Metro-North Railroad in 2012 were 23.6 percent more than in 2011; the increase was mostly driven by the dioramas’ increase. The railroad is projecting an additional 8 percent growth in digital advertising revenues this year, but is hoping for more.

“The four, eye-catching digital screens mounted on the north columns of Grand Central’s Main Concourse represent an effective way to balance the landmark stature of the building with a sophisticated, yet sensitive presentation of digital media that activates public interest and generates significant revenue for Metro-North,” said Randall Fleischer, senior director of the of the railroad’s business development, facilities & marketing department.

The multi-purpose LCD (liquid crystal display) screens, each roughly 7-feet by 6-feet in dimension, are composed of six individual screens. They are intended to help the railroad reach its Vision 2013 goal of achieving a $75 million increase in non-passenger revenues.

“We decided to replace the previous static dioramas with these LCD screens because these LCD’s are projected to eventually generate triple the advertising revenues of the static screens,” said Stephen Brusca, assistant deputy director-revenue development, who managed the project. “Metro-North and its contractor, CBS Outdoor, learned a lot about the value of these digital displays and CBS has made some adjustments to pricing and to the approach to production of digital ads that we believe will lead to additional growth in 2013.”

A roster of high-end, industry-leading and brand-popular advertisers is currently on display. Each still image is displayed for 15 seconds on all four screens, which allows for a good view of ads from every angle of the main concourse. And where else can companies looking to market their products effectively find a guaranteed audience of 750,000-plus people every day?

There’s another positive side to this story — the screens were installed without Metro-North spending a penny.

“We partnered with CBS Outdoor in an agreement where they provided upfront funding for the screens — as ad revenues come in, anything beyond our guaranteed revenue income is used to reimburse CBS Outdoor. Thereafter, any additional dollars will be divided between us,” Brusca explained.

“The project was completed in two months thanks to the excellent teamwork between Metro-North employees and CBS Outdoor,” Brusca said. “Everyone worked very hard to bring this project to fruition. That’s what made the difference in getting these screens launched — and generating revenue — so quickly!”

But the screens are not all about money — they are able to provide instantaneous messages to customers, especially during service disruptions.

“The Metro-North Railroad Customer Service, GCT, and IT departments are now able to post service-related and emergency messages to supplement our existing communications methods,” Brusca said.