the frequency a kenny chung blog

Is the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in the process of a rebranding campaign? Everyone knows they could use some good press (there’s only so much news you can read about budget cutbacks or more potential fair hikes).

I usually use Tuesdays to critique NYC Subway advertisements, but today something else caught my eye. Take a look at the new map:

Subway map redesign (before and after)
Subway map redesign (before and after)

You can immediately tell that the main colors are a bit more muted. At first, it may just seem that the brighter blue of the water makes the land look greyer by comparison, but both colors have changed. The land is now more of a concrete color, which makes sense only from a non-cartographic kind of way. But it does bring a retro look and feel to it all.

As far as the layout goes, I think it’s a big improvement. There’s more room to actually see the subway lines (particularly in Manhattan) and there’s less clutter. However, I hope they create one with as much information as the old one for the big kiosk-type maps on the subway platforms.

As far as the rationale behind redesigning the map, that’s a different story. To me, it was not worth redoing. Sure, it’ll be noticed by the experienced straphanger’s eye, but why even bother? Until something big happens like the completion of the famed 2nd Avenue line or the city finishes the new Brooklyn Nets stadium, there’s not much worth bringing attention to.

It would have definitely been a better idea if they switched the colors after they actually made noteworthy changes. It would then perform the double duty of catching eyeballs and showing progress for a perpetually floundering transit system.

And of course, I’m not a big fan of the color choice. But as fellow native New Yorkers can attest to, people will complain, get used to it, and then forget all about it. I mean, that’s how it works whenever they hike up the fares, change express trains to local, cut service…

edit: I also noticed that their Service Change signs are now different color, with a new layout and printed on glossy paper. I can’t help but think that it had something to do with how easy it is to spoof Subway posters. Check out the new ones:

Redesigned Subway Changes Poster
Redesigned Subway Changes Poster

Source: M.T.A. Sells Naming Rights to Subway Station

The MTA has finally been able to sell the naming rights to one of their subway stations. Atlantic Ave/Pacific Street (which is the connecting station for various trains and the LIRR) will be named after Barclays bank. The logic behind this change is that the new Brooklyn Nets stadium (set to open in 2012) will be called Barclays Center.

So is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Well, let’s look at the facts.

The MTA has been in severe debt for many years now, and stories about budget deficits and cut service have been much too commonplace. If this $4 million deal will keep Metrocard prices steady (at least for another year or two), then there’s really no reason not to do it.

People may complain that the rebranding process dishonors pieces of Brooklyn history, but it’s just the subway station. Atlantic Ave/Pacific St is sure to become a historic landmark… when hovercars and public transit powered by positive thoughts become the norm. But for now, the subway system is going to remain as busy as ever. It’s not like they’re auctioning off the naming rights to historic streets.

And consider this. The area in question on Flatbush Ave is being completely restructured to become a downtown metropolis. They’ve already torn down old houses so that high-rise condos can be built. They’re going to be building a basketball stadium! Besides the obvious issues surrounding the gentrification of the area, how is any of that any less disrespectful to history? The bottom line is money. Why else would New York even bring the Nets over from New Jersey? Maybe they couldn’t find any companies who wanted to buy the branding rights of the New York Knicks.

Speaking as both a native of Brooklyn and an Advertising scholar, I say you gotta roll with the times.

May 22nd, 2009
according to

The sandwich chain Subway may be solely responsible for the NBC Show ‘Chuck’ staying on the air, speculates this article.

Subway has basically become the official sponsor of the show. Entering into a deal with Subway may deter the cancellation of the spy comedy despite less-than-stellar ratings. And the payoff? Prominently displaying Subway sandwiches within the scene settings and also shameless mentions within the dialogue itself.

Is this the future of product placement?

Well, that’s an inherently flawed question. This sort of hyperreal advertising is already happening in the present. Everyone’s aware that Simon, Paula and Randy (and Kara) all only drink one brand of carbonated beverage. The Transformers movie franchise is the perfect platform for GM’s highly transparent product placement campaign. Viewers of the CW hit ‘Smallville’ can tell you exactly which model of Toyota the show’s characters love to drive and their favorite brand of chewing gum. Even Terminator Salvation, set in a nigh-apocalyptic future, featured a particular SUV blown up by robots. In the scene immediately following the dust settling, viewers had to try hard to ignore the grill of the vehicle on the ground, still proudly displaying the JEEP logo. There was another scene where survivors gathered at a gas station/former convenience store. The camera deliberately panned upward to show a much weathered 7-ELEVEN logo.

Is this the future of product placement?

Will money soon influence art to the degree that the audience will not be able to ignore it? In the age of TiVo and online viewing, commercials have certainly lost their impact. Is the only solution to make TV shows into ads themselves? When do we reach the tipping point? Back when product placement wasn’t as common, it was easy to tell which companies paid to have their goods deliberately placed onto a set. And then it began happening more and it became harder to tell which were the result of natural dialogue (i.e. saying ‘iPod’ instead of ‘mp3 player’) and which were being paid for (ironically, the makers of the Harold and Kumar series did not have a deal with White Castle). So what happens when it becomes too evident that product placement is happening? Will it just stop working altogether? Will viewers resent that brand? Or will they grow to love the product as if it were their own child?

Only time will tell.

Creative Commons License
licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.