Business' costly love affair with trolley buses

  • 1998-07-23
  • Parker Ruis
VILNIUS – The people of Vilnius who rely on public transportation have an understandable love-hate relationship with the city's trolley buses. On one hand, the reliable, intricate system allows a person to travel to almost any point of the city for a dirt-cheap fair of 60 centas ($ 0.15). On the other hand, a passenger often finds himself the victim of jabs, pushes and prods, since these buses tend to carry many more people than originally intended.
Over the last couple of years, however, trolley busses have managed to soar in popularity among an unlikely group – business people. While the prospect of taking a ride on the trolley buses has not caused any meaningful sparks of interest for people in business, the possibility for enterprises to cover the city vehicles with their advertisements has.
An advertisement moving around the city all day obviously increases the chance that it will be seen by more people than a stagnant sign. Black and Decker's representative in Lithuania, Harry Sherwood, is hopeful that the tool company's logo will soon appear on one of the trolleys.
"Four to six months ago, we had an advertisement painted onto a company car and it has already made a big difference," said Sherwood. "Black and Decker is not well-known in Lithuania yet. An advertisement on a trolley bus increases the company's legitimacy for people."
One disadvantage mentioned by Sherwood was that the price for such advertising is high by Lithuanian standards. While the city has allowed advertisements to be displayed on trolleys for a couple of years, the demand of those wanting to see their company's name displayed has risen. The price for such advertisements, which is often too steep for most companies operating in Lithuania, is only expected to go higher in the future.
"As it is now, only the biggest companies can afford it. Usually, only businesses that have foreign capital can do it," said Tomas Vileikis, the commercial director of ZVK, one of the advertising enterprises in Vilnius that deal with trolley bus advertising. "The number of trolley buses is not expected to grow anytime soon, so in the future, this type of advertising will only become more expensive for clients."
To cover a one-car trolley bus with an advertisement, companies need to shell out approximately 6,500 litas ($1,625) for the design, plus another 2,250 litas per month for rent. A number of cheaper options are available such as covering only the sides, attaching posters to the sides and placing stickers on the inside.
While it is not uncommon to see a trolley bus lumbering across town outfitted in its original solid mustard color, it is not necessarily because there is a lack of interest on the part of businesses.
"There are some trolley-buses on which advertisements are impossible to apply," said Vileikis. "Sometimes, a rough surface is left by old paint. Advertisements cannot be applied successfully onto those."
Because of the visual advantages, this fairly new way of advertising in Vilnius should continue to remain popular among those businesses that can afford it.
If the price of this already expensive form of advertising increases as predicted, however, even the most well-off businesses may develop a love-hate relationship of their own with the trolley buses. o