Public Transit bus ads make $18,750 in first year

Augusta's attempt to make money through advertising on city buses has raised close to $19,000 in its first year.

In June 2008, advertising space was created on the outside of Augusta Public Transit buses. Transit Director Heyward Johnson and members of Augusta Commission finance committee had hoped to raise $60,000 a year for the bus system, which loses about $4 million annually.

Tony Thomas, the president of Renaissance Marketing - the Savannah-based advertising firm that handles the bus accounts- said the program has brought in $18,750. Renaissance and the city split the revenue.

Out of the $18,750, Augusta Public Transit has received only $5,225 from Renaissance Marketing, although some contracts are still in billing status.

Mr. Thomas said that part of the problem is that Augusta has too few buses on the road to draw national advertising. The city runs only 13 buses daily.

"We're really proud of what we've done thus far," Mr. Thomas said. While Savannah has only three models of buses, Augusta runs five. This makes advertising packages difficult to sell because advertisers want to know that their message is being displayed frequently and consistently, according to Mr. Thomas.

Renaissance is working around this difficulty by pushing a full-wrap advertising option, in which an advertiser pays for the whole bus to be covered.

Mr. Thomas said he is hashing out details for two clients interested in the full-wrap option, one being a national insurance provider and the other a local janitorial service.

The transit department is grateful for any funds it receives from the advertising.

"It is definitely bringing in revenue that we did not have before," said Heyward Johnson, Augusta Public Transit's director. "That we did have any advertising at all is remarkable,"

Likewise, Mr. Thomas is not discouraged by the advertising.

"This is just going to take some time," he said.

Reach Gracie Shepherd at (706) 823-3228 or gracie.shepherd@augustachronicle.com.

This article has been updated to correct an attribution error.