State ferries may become floating advertising kiosks to keep the boats afloat.
But they won’t be floating billboards — external advertising visible from the shores is not in the cards.
“We are accepting information from companies, organizations and individuals about advertising, and asking for their best estimates on how much revenue some or all of their programs could raise,” said Washington State Ferries public affairs Director Pat Patterson.
Although WSF is not currently prohibited from placing advertising on the boats, it has chosen not to do so, Patterson said, except in racks that contain printed advertising material.
The new examination of the issue was sparked by a legislative resolution.
“We just wanted to see whether they might be missing some opportunities,” said Rep. Phil Rockefeller, (D-Bainbridge Island), one of the co-sponsors of the resolution.
“If there are revenue streams out there, however small, it’s at least worth considering,” he said.
Patterson said ferry officials have consulted advertising agencies and other ferry and transportation systems on types of advertising that might work on Washington vessels. Officials also surveyed advertisers on the kind of advertising they’d like to see.
Last week, Patterson showed members of the Bremerton Ferry Advisory Committee placards illustrating ads on British Columbia ferries:
* Small ads on the fronts of steps on ferries, visible as passengers ascend stairs.
* Larger ads on table tops in eating areas.
* Ads affixed to floors in interior walkways.
* Posters on walls, some with small holders for coupons.
* Billboard-like ads on outer bulkheads, visible to passengers on outer walkways and decks.
* Ads inside of stall doors in women’s rest rooms, and above the urinals in men’s rest rooms.
Ads may appear in ferry terminals as well, she said.
Other advertising and sponsorships that were considered but are unlikely to be tried, Patterson said, include:
* Large “wraparound” ads, like those often seen on buses. “These ads are very extreme,” she said. “I don’t think that’s what we’re looking for.”
* Allowing corporations to name ships. Patterson said although the concept has been circulated by the media, it was never seriously considered.
* Illuminated ads, such as displays of neon lights. “Electrical power on our ships is too limited for this,” she said.
Estimated income from ads on ferries ranges from $200,000 to $1 million per year.
Patterson is compiling the information into a report that will go to the legislature at its January budget session.
“They don’t need our approval legally,” Rockefeller said, “but they are being cautious. They don’t want to do anything that a great many people will find offensive.”
The study is part of an effort to plug a $30 million hole in the ferry system’s annual operating budget created when the value-based Motor Vehicle Excise Tax was eliminated, first by popular approval of Initiative 695 in 1999, then by legislative repeal of the tax.
“This is all about maximizing the resources we have out there,” Patterson said.