When the Nashville Metro Transit Authority announced this month it was changing the name of its service to "WeGo," that was just the first step in the rebranding process. Now, the public bus system is trying to improve a different part of its image — even though it could end up hurting how much money it makes in the short term.
MTA brought in a little over a million dollars last year in advertising revenue. Of that, about half came from ads on the outside of buses, according to board meeting minutes. About a third of the revenue were from "full wraps" — ads that cover the entire bus.
Still, some MTA officials have been eager to get rid of them. For one, they want to give more prominence to the bus service's new name, logo and purple color scheme.
For another, those wraparound ads often cover windows and limit visibility from inside the bus, which passengers don't like.
And more generally, says spokeswoman Amanda Clelland, they can make the buses look un-inviting: The lucrative advertising could be steering away potential passengers.
"People don't know whether or not it's a city bus or whether it's a bus for a company that has purchased a full wrap," she said. "We're not sure whether or not the type of advertising is something that might turn somebody off from giving it a chance."
The MTA board votes this Thursday on whether to adopt a new policy that would do away with ads on the outside of buses.
"They feel very strongly about the fact that the newly branded WeGo buses should not have any exterior advertising whatsoever touch them, at least for the indefinite future," Clelland said.
Instead, the agency will try to make up the revenue from other sources — for example, putting more ads at bus stops rather than on the vehicles themselves.
Correction: A previous version of the story and the headline stated that MTA's new policy would eliminate all ads from the outside of buses. In fact, some smaller ads will still be present on MTA-branded buses, but not on the new WeGo-branded buses.