Advertising is everywhere nowadays. The minute you go online pop-ups appear from nowhere, flyers are regularly pushed through the letterbox and opening a newspaper often results in half the rainforest in the form of various promotional leaflets dropping to the floor.
Outdoors it’s to be found on billboards, on bus shelters and, of course, on buses themselves. Yet it is only now, almost two years after the start of operations, that a campaign to boost the coffers of Edinburgh Trams by attracting external advertising on the vehicles has been launched.
Ironically, this coincides with bus industry publications highlighting passenger concerns over the relatively-new concept of ‘all-over advertising’ and how it restricts the view from windows.
Just as the big bus operators are investing large sums in facilities such as leather seating and USB charging points to try and woo motorists out of their cars, ‘all-over advertising’ is actually providing a negative customer experience, so the claim goes.
But this also begs the question: all-over advertising certainly catches the eye but is it too clever by half given that a bus or tram – being a moving object – is only fleeting to the passer-by?
Perhaps the conventional, concise advertising, as displayed on the upper panels of buses, are the most effective because they get the message over in the blink of an eye – e.g. ‘The Next summer sale starts Monday the 12th’’ or ‘Star Wars 7 now showing at all Odeon cinemas’.
Either way there is another, more pressing, reason why all-over advertising might not be right for Edinburgh’s trams.
Regular readers will be aware of this commentator’s negative view of the tram project for various reasons but especially because for half the money spent on half a tram line, Edinburgh could have turned its city-wide bus system from the best in Britain to the best in Europe.
However we are where we are and in December this year the trams will actually take on a positive role in the wider transport network with the opening of Edinburgh Gateway at the Gogar roundabout, five miles west of the city centre.
This rail/tram interchange station will enable rail users from Fife, Dundee and Aberdeen to alight and switch seamlessly to a tram (via lifts and escalators), after which it is only two stops to the airport.
Who knows, perhaps there may even be through services from south and east of the capital, i.e. the new Borders railway and the North Berwick and Newcraighall branch lines, calling at Edinburgh Gateway.
All in all, it’s a major expansion of the role of the trams without the necessity of a single extra yard of track.
Back in the early 1950’s municipal bus undertakings began to lift long-standing bans on external advertising as increasing costs forced them to look for revenue streams beyond fares.
However the trend was vigorously opposed by some managers and a handful managed to keep their fleets advert-free, to the very end of their careers.
They argued that adverts diminished ‘the brand’, thus alienating customers and leading to an accelerated loss of fares revenue which was greater than any subsidiary income derived from advertising.
This view does appear to have some merit. With ‘Edinburgh Trams’ about to take on a much higher profile perhaps the only brand the operator should be promoting is its own.
THE REAL MACKAY
The year so far has been marked by the death of several celebrities from the world of entertainment leading to hundreds of thousands of (often mawkish) words of tribute in the press and social media.
Yet the premature death last month of an individual whose passing is a much greater loss to society than any rock star, has gone virtually unnoticed outside the official obituary columns of the ‘heavyweight’ newspapers.
I refer to the physicist, Professor Sir David MacKay, English-born but the son of Professor Donald McCrimmon MacKay, also a physicist, born in Lybster in Caithness and educated at Wick High School. Aged just 48, Sir David had been suffering from stomach cancer.
Sir David was chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate change from 2009 to 2014 during which time he told politicians truths they did not want to hear – e.g. that without the technology to store electricity wind turbines were a waste of space and that closing down the UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations and converting some of them to burning woodchip imported from North America actually increased, rather than decreased, CO2 emissions.
He is quoted to have once said: “I like renewables – but I am also pro-arithmetic”.
Sir David’s book, ‘Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air’, looked at a serious subject in an informative but light-hearted manner which questioned the self-righteousness of the climate change establishment.
Sadly, government ministers do not appear to have taken heed of Sir David’s advice when he was alive and are therefore even less likely to do so now he’s gone.