OCEAN CITY – A divided City Council voted this week to approve additional advertising opportunities for local and national businesses atop Boardwalk trams.
According to Public Works Director Hal Adkins, the town installed in mid-August roof top, back lit, advertising panels on one of the 16 tram coaches. The installation consisted of two side panels and one rear panel advertising McDonalds. The installation was done in an effort to test the market and gather a response.
The cost to install the two side and one rear panel per tram was $7,500, which would come to a total cost of $112,500 to install the advertising on all 16 trams.
Adkins furthered, the town’s contracted advertising representative, Direct Media, feels the town can expect to receive $4,000 per month/per tram, which would result in gross revenue of $192,000 per season. However, the contracted revenue split is 35/65 with the town receiving 65 percent. Therefore, the net received per year for the town would be about $125,000 if all the trams are utilized.
In speaking with tram drivers, most are opposed to the advertising opportunity. Superintendent of Transportation George Thornes said they think it is too commercial for Ocean City. However, most of the public responded with a “wow”, as well as said “whatever can keep taxes down.”
“I am glad that you did get it up there so everybody could get an idea … I thought it looked great,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “It is a great advertising opportunity, particularly for those people who have businesses downtown. I would certainly want to do that if I had a business not just on the Boardwalk but on the bayside … it is a great opportunity to let the people know where some of these businesses are. There isn’t a more commercial area in town than on the Boardwalk.”
The mayor added $125,000 will come in handy at budget time, helping the council reduce other costs.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas agreed with the employees, questioning what the town will add advertising to next. She was also concerned national advertisers would raise the bar too high for local businesses shutting them out of the opportunity.
“I think people come here to relax and enjoy themselves, and I would hope we put a limit on advertising at some time,” she said.
Meehan responded local businesses could have the first chance to purchase the advertising space prior to opening the opportunity nationally.
“That would give local businesses the first crack to rent those panels at the same price, so they are not at a price war with somebody else,” he said.
Councilman Brent Ashley also agreed with the employees, stating the roof-top advertising will visually clutter the Boardwalk and cheapen Ocean City’s brand.
Council Secretary Mary Knight recalled when the council voted to approve advertising on city buses.
“That has been very successful. I think that is visually interesting when I am on Coastal Highway,” she said, as she made a motion to accept the proposal.
Councilman Dennis Dare continued the discussion stating his opposition.
“It crosses a line,” he said. “I would have to agree the revenue is attractive, but the last time we had a proposal for advertising on the trams and we authorized, we fell way short. While one out of 16 cars stands out, I don’t think all 16 will have the wow effect and I don’t think you will be able to sell all of them.”
Council President Lloyd Martin disagreed with his colleagues in opposition.
“It gives the person on the Boardwalk a chance to advertise not just in front of their business but all over the Boardwalk. I don’t see it being that unattractive. The buses are appealing for people that drive up and down the highway. We are also looking at $125,000 of revenue if we sell them all at $4,000, and that is a conservative figure. I believe in doing this,” he said.
The council voted 4-3 to approve the proposal in with Pillas, Dare and Ashley opposed.