Buses save spaces for ads

Chris Thelen/Staff
The ads will help with operating costs for the transit system, which loses about $1.5 million each year.

Augusta city buses will soon serve as moving advertisements for local businesses.

Ads could be posted on the buses as early as next month, and officials project they will bring in as much as $60,000 per year.

Since the beginning of June, city buses have been sporting yellow "advertising space available" signs, said Augusta Public Transit Director Heyward Johnson. The effort began in October when the Augusta Commission approved the contract between the transit system and Renaissance Marketing, a Savannah-based transit advertising company.

Ads will be placed on the front, back and sides of the 12 buses that run through Augusta, Mr. Johnson said. It will be the second time the transit system has attempted the venture.

"We tried this before about 10 years ago," Mr. Johnson said. "It wasn't successful. We're hoping this time it will have a positive experience."

The idea is well on its way to success, said Tony Thomas, the president of Renaissance Marketing. His office has received at least 20 calls each day over the past two weeks from interested businesses.

The buses will not carry any political, alcohol or tobacco advertisements, Mr. Thomas said.

Once the ads are posted, Renaissance will split half of the revenue with the transit system, Mr. Thomas said. The ads will sell for $50 to $200, depending on size and placement. Success greatly depends on ridership, he said.

"If they decide to add routes, that's just going to make it that much more lucrative," Mr. Thomas said. "I know they need enough riders for that."

Ridership continues to be a factor in the transit budget, Mr. Johnson said, and the transit system loses about $1.5 million each year.

An additional $60,000 each year would make up 5 percent of the budget and likely cover part of the system's operating costs, said Joe Bowles, the chairman of the Augusta Commission's finance committee.

"It'll help offset what the taxpayers are putting into the transit system and help increase the services being provided," Mr. Bowles said. "I think it's long overdue."

Mr. Johnson said the success of the bus ads will likely not be apparent until sometime next year.

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.