CTA lifts ban on advertising alcohol; most ads will appear in Central Business District

The CTA board last week voted to update its advertising guidelines to allow advertising alcoholic beverages on rail cars and at certain rail stations. Ads will not be allowed on buses.

Advertisement of alcoholic beverages will be limited primarily to the Central Business District, matching the geographic area of JC Decaux bus shelters, owned and managed by the city of Chicago and where alcohol ads are currently permitted.  Alcoholic beverage ads and will not exceed 9.99% of the total advertising space on the transit system at any one time.

“The inclusion of such advertisements will expand the number of potential companies interested in reaching CTA customers,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “However, lifting this ban was a process conducted with thoughtful consideration. A disclaimer and a clearly defined boundary are important provisions of the policy, in order to ensure people are aware of the risks associated with the consumption of alcohol and there is not a saturation of ads at locations with a high number of riders who are not of legal drinking age.”

The guidelines are strict and aimed at keeping ads away from schoolchildren as much as possible. Alcoholic beverage ads will not be permitted in rail stations where reduced fare student riders exceed 7.5% of the total ridership.  The boundaries where alcohol ads will be permitted are confined to Montrose on the north, Roosevelt on the south, Ashland on the west and Lake Michigan on the east, plus the Sox/35th Red Line station and the 35th/Bronzeville/IIT station on the Green Line. No more than 15 exterior rail car pairs will have alcohol advertisements posted on the system at any one time.

Three percent of the advertisement area must display a statement indicating the legal drinking age in Illinois and the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, in connection with the operation of heavy machinery, or while driving.

As a result of this ordinance change, Titan Worldwide, CTA’s advertising broker, is guaranteeing a higher minimum annual guarantee. The total amount in new advertising revenue for the remainder of the three-year contract is $3,287,500, bringing the total minimum annual guarantee for all advertisements to $57,537,500.

New language in the ordinance also was added to make clear CTA’s policy, which is consistent with Illinois law prohibiting ads promoting infidelity, escort services and sexually-oriented products or businesses.


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  • The question was that since CTA had liquor bottles painted on the sides of its buses in Evanston in the 1970s, what made it so prissy about liquor ads since then? Similar nonsense to banning video game ads because the games might be too violent?

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