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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Should TfL allow rebranded Tube Stations?

Although Google Maps thinks that
South Ken Tube station is already sponsored by Carluccios, it would appear that TfL aren't exactly keen on having London Underground station names taken over by brands.


TfL were in discussions with a wine brand, Oxford Landing, who wanted to re-name Oxford Circus Tube and run a whole lot of "ambient" branding inside the station turning it into "a virtual vineyard".


Oxford Landing offered TfL a rather large amount of money in order to do this for a three month period over the summer however, TfL knocked back the idea. But, they did offer to allow the project for a fee described as 'unworkable' by Oxford Landing.

"We were offering a shed-load of money but the number they came back with was 20 times the amount," said Negociants' (the wine's UK distributor) managing director Simon Thorpe. "We were going to invest significantly in the network and thought the funds would be a welcome boost."

The powers that be at TfL admitted informal discussions took place over Oxford Landing's plans, but told The Grocer it does not allow companies to rebrand stations.

"Does not allow companies to rebrand stations". Really?  Mmm this is very weird.  What happened to the statement back in 2008 where TfL announced they were lifting a ban on Tube station sponsorship? I've seen tons of branded station take-overs (in fact there's a section on Station domination on Transport Media's website - "Available in several stations across the network. The brand owns the station with opportunity for a branding exercise. £70,000"  h/t IanVisits)  - so I think the definition of "rebrand" is negotiable.

If companies are not allowed to rebrand stations, why did TfL even have discussions with them in the first place? Why then come back with the classic negotiation tactic of deliberately offering a sky-figure that you know won't be accepted?  We know that TfL usually get worked up about Tube Map Mashups because of intellectual property & customer confusion issues - can you imagine how confusing it might be for tourists to see Oxford Landing station?

You might remember there was a bit of a PR problem for Boris last year, when many people, including MPs and London Assembly members, were offended by online loan company Wonga sponsoring free Tube travel on New Year's Eve.

Which leads to the following questions: Is it right for TfL to not allow rebrands of Tube stations or should they be welcoming additional funds and investment from marketers? Would you welcome more ads if it meant that fares weren't increased every year or there was an improvement to the service?  Does it, or should it, depend on the advertiser?

Admittedly TfL have a duty of care to protect vulnerable or young commuters from seeing ads that could cause offence or be upsetting. This wasn't the case with Oxford Landing, but we have seen TfL take sometimes surprisingly puritanical attitude with their position over what ads on the Tube are acceptable (and have taken a number of U-turns & re-working on their initial decisions - see the related posts below).

Let us have your thoughts in the comments.  Thanks.

Related Posts
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