Tunnel vision: Madrid set for space-age Metro ads

For Madrid dwellers who enjoy gazing out of the underground train window into the darkness outside, or sneaking a sly look at a fellow passenger, a change is at hand after managers decided to install hi-tech advertising systems.

According to the online news site El Confidencial, the Madrid regional government is preparing to announce the exact terms of the tender for the first contract to install and operate a system similar to those which already exist in London, Hong Kong and the Chilean capital, Santiago.

The first site for a 15-second tunnel ad, comprising images created by LED pillars triggered by a laser sensor as a train approaches, will be between Colombia and Nuevos Ministerios stations on Line 8, the route which takes many visitors to Madrid to and from the city’s airport. The chosen point has daily traffic of some 50,000 passengers.

The system is expected to be operational this year.

The company with the winning bid is to receive 15 percent of advertising revenues, with a minimum annual fee of €40,000 ($54,000) guaranteed.

As the cost of running the heavily subsidised Metro strains the Madrid region’s finances, advertising has brought some good news to the underground system’s managers in recent years. According to figures from Madrid Metro, 2013 saw a 10-percent rise in the company’s profits from advertising and promotional activities to €11.4 million ($15.5 million).

But there has also been controversy surrounding this more aggressive approach to advertising, particularly with regard to the decision to rename Sol station "Vodafone Sol". The mobile telephony company has now lent its name to Line 2 in its entirety, as part of a deal which is worth €1 million (€1.36 million) per year to Madrid Metro.

Meanwhile, Metro authorities have said they will be cancelling a deal under which troubled Wi-Fi provider Let's Gowex was due to roll out coverage for the Madrid underground system, EFE reports. Let's Gowex won a tender to install free Wi-Fi for Metro users starting this summer as part of a pilot scheme lasting 15 months. No money was due to be paid to the company for this venture.

Madrid City Hall has also said that it will be terminating its agreement with the company to provide free a Wi-Fi service in the streets of the capital.

Let's Gowex also sponsors the free Wi-Fi service available on Madrid's bus network.

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