Boardwalk Tram Ad Content Concerns Reviewed

Boardwalk Tram Ad Content Concerns Reviewed
File photo by Steve Green

OCEAN CITY — Resort officials this week to send out a request for proposal (RFP) for municipal bus and Boardwalk tram advertising, but there appears to be a reluctance to consider the latter.

Last week, the Transportation Committee forwarded a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council to send out an RFP outlining the terms of the proposed contract for sign advertising on the municipal buses and Boardwalk trams. The committee recommended a three-year base term for advertisers, with the option of two one-year extensions.

The council appeared poised to act on the committee’s recommendation before debating the merits of the transit advertising plan, particularly the advertising on the Boardwalk trams. Councilman Matt James said he wasn’t entirely in favor of tram advertising, but was willing to send out the RFP to gauge the response.

“I’m not sure I support advertising on the trams, but I am interested to see what it could bring in, so I’ll support the motion to see what potential interest there is,” he said.

The Boardwalk tram advertising includes rectangular signs marketing a wide variety of businesses, special events and public services. The latter often includes messages on where to find help for addictions or sexually transmitted diseases and the like. Council Secretary Mary Knight questioned if the town could dictate the content.

“Can we indicate that we really don’t want as many health or public service messages out there?” she said.

Transit Administrator Brian Connor said the town could control the message with the advertising.

“That would be at your discretion,” he said. “You’re able to craft what type of advertising that you’d like on your vehicles. In some regards, that’s already in the contract. For example, there can’t be any political messages or nothing obscene or inappropriate and so forth.”

Knight continued her objection to some of the tram advertising, suggesting it didn’t always fit with the Boardwalk’s family-friendly image.

“I’m not really in favor of tram advertising because I think it clutters up the Boardwalk,” she said. “I don’t like what most of the signs say, especially when you see a bunch of Boy Scouts and there’s a sign about venereal disease right above their heads as it goes down the Boardwalk.”

Councilman Dennis Dare, who voted against the motion at the committee level, said he would remain consistent on the issue.

“I will not be voting for the motion, in the interest of consistency,” he said. “I’m okay with the buses. The way it’s presented with the trams, it gets a little honky-tonk. On top of that, some of the messages on the signs we put out there are not consistent with the family image we want to portray.”

Councilman Mark Paddack said there was no harm in sending out the RFP as a fact-finding mission of sorts and suggested more oversight on content.

“This RFP would continue what we’ve done in the past,” he said. “I agree with some of the others that some of the messages aren’t family-friendly and don’t portray the image we want. The OCDC (Ocean City Development Corporation) is concerned about some of what is portrayed on the signs. I would hope in the future that the OCDC assist in recruiting additional downtown businesses to take up those spaces so there will not be space for some of those non-family-friendly messages that are being portrayed out there.”

The council voted 5-1 with Dare opposed and Councilman John Gehrig absent to send out the RFP despite a reluctance to continue the tram advertising.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.