Transport for London (TfL) has revealed that it earned more than £150 million in 2017/18 from advertising across its network – a rise of £10 million on the previous year.
In 2017/2018, more than 16,000 advertisements ran on the TfL network, generating approximately £152m – £10m more than the £142m raised in 2016/2017. TfL’s advertising estate accounts for 20 percent of the UK’s, and 40 percent of London’s, outdoor advertising by value.
TfL has introduced 260 new full-motion screens across the London Underground network and 60 full-motion ‘cross platform’ screens.
The start of 2019 has also seen the first advertising campaigns going live on new digital ‘ribbons’ at Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly Circus and King’s Cross St. Pancras Tube stations. Each consists of several aligned digital screens alongside escalators enabling an advertising campaign to seamlessly flow along the length of the escalator.
With fares frozen and a declining government grant, TfL is looking to earn more money from more advertising.
While the amount of advertising on the Underground is a pale shadow of how much used to be there, it’s still leading to changes in the environment on public transport, with more space given to commercial space.
That results in more money to be pumped back into the transport network, which is good for the physical delivery of the service, but if the quid-pro-quo for a more reliable journey is being suffused with advertising, is that a price people are willing to pay?
What would be the impact on TFl’s income if, for example, the advertising space on the network were halved? It’s unlikely to be a halving of the revenue, as fewer adverts should command a higher value per viewer impact.
Let’s say though that it were to be nearly halved in revenue — so that TfL was to earn just £80 million from adverts on the network.
Although TfL’s income in 2017/18 came to £10.2 billion, just £4.8 billion of that came from passenger fares, and that’s what would have to be affected if the public were willing to pay more for travel in exchange for fewer adverts.
The shortfall would be equivalent to 1.5% of fares income – or less than what would have once been the annual fares increase.
So, would you be willing to pay, say an extra £20 a year to halve the number of adverts on the tube?