Saturday, September 3, 2011

Nucky's Train Stays in New York

It’s a canny marketing match: a transit agency that has had its share of encounters with corrupt politicians and old trains getting paid to run an old train to promote a TV show about a corrupt politician.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been selling more space on its trains to advertisers, wrapping exteriors in Target ads and converting the interior of the 42nd Street shuttle with images of the Netherlands, paid for by that country’s tourism bureau.

Now it’s going a step further and running an entire train. HBO is paying the agency more than $150,000, according to an MTA spokesman, to run a Prohibition-era train along the 2/3 line in Manhattan during four September weekends. It’s a promotion for the second season of“Boardwalk Empire“, a drama set in 1920s Atlantic City.

The MTA says running the vintage train was their idea. HBO came to them looking for “something nostalgic,” said Eugene Ribeiro, the transit agency’s director of promotions. So the MTA offered one of its retired trains, an old IRT train that ran from 1917 to the 1960s, a few of which sit around in yards and at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn. Sometimes it runs them on weekends.

The subway will run between 42nd Street and 96th streets, making express stops in between. It’s interiors will be adorned with images of Nucky Thompson, the corrupt political boss at the center of Boardwalk Empire who stays in power by dispensing both fear and favors.

People paid by HBO will walk around Manhattan later this month giving out free MetroCards courtesy of Nucky. It sounds like another case of art imitating life: the MTA did something similar in 2005, spending part of a budget surplus on discounted rides during the winter holidays.

HBO has, quite literally, brought a little of the 1920s to New York City subway system. The network teamed up with NYC's Metropolitan Transit Authority to bring a vintage train to the subway's 2/3 line, according to Fast Company. The train is an authentic piece from the 1920s, used by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company -- a private operator of the original underground NYC subway line that opened in 1904.

This isn't the first time HBO has gone creative with the NYC subway (they outfitted a shuttle with wild west decor to promote Deadwood in '05), nor is it the first appearance for this train on the subway, which is usually brought out for holidays. This is, however, HBO's most ambitious campaign of this kind and the first time the train has been associated with such a campaign.

The train is outfitted with authentic period details, such as rattan seats, ceiling fans, and drop sash windows. HBO has also added Boardwalk-themed artwork that identifies the new season's premiere time and directs riders (yes, you can ride it) to the campaign's Facebook page, where you can find perks and prizes -- "compliments of Nucky Thompson."

Among other things, there will be an opportunity to buy a Living Social, prohibition-themed packaged at a reduced price of $19.21 and on September 24th and 25th (the day before and the day of the premiere), "Nucky" will "pick up" all eastbound Pleasantville tolls into Atlantic City from the AC Expressway.

I can only speak for myself, but this campaign has really dug this premiere out of the sea of premieres coming this Fall for me and renewed my excitement about the show. If you're a New Yorker and are potentially interested in seeing the train for yourself, you can find and/or ride it at the 42nd, 72nd, and 96th Street stops. There are also a lot of cool pictures in the Fast Company article, linked at the top of this one.

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