PA Mass Transit Tests Video Ads Before Fare Purchase

Pennsylvania’s SETPA mass transit system has begun a pilot program in which commuters must watch a video ad before loading their fare card at train station kiosks. Philadelphia Magazine weighs in:

On the one hand, SEPTA’s facing a potentially catastrophic risk to its budget, on account of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, one of its biggest funders, being billions of dollars in debt. SEPTA made $14.5 million in advertising revenue in the last fiscal year, which is pennies compared to its billion-dollar budget. A couple of extra bucks in the coffers from ad revenue wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, would it?

And then there’s the ethical component: It’s such a blatant use of captive audience marketing. Sure, every one of us as consumers probably knows how much we are directly and indirectly exploited in the name of advertising. But the best advertising techniques at least have the tact to allow us the pretense of thinking we have autonomy. The SEPTA fare kiosk strategy is far more blunt: You want to take SEPTA? You must watch this ad first.