OUTFRONT Media

Get ready to have your subway behavior corrected by cute dogs, cats, and a sneezing panda.

As their comrades in New York City endure their Summer of Hell, Boston’s subway riders are preparing for their own commuting challenge: possible system-wide cute overload. Last week, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority launched a public transit etiquette campaign based on animal GIFs.

A rotating selection of 10 GIFs started showing up on flat screens in the Boston T’s Copley Station as a pilot program between the MBTA and OUTFRONT Media, which handles advertising for many U.S. transit agencies including those in New York, L.A., and Washington, D.C. The ad agency is curating its GIFs via a partnership with search engine GIPHY, and the programming leans heavily on kittens, doggos, and that sneezing panda. In one example, a Labrador-looking hound trots through a crosswalk with two saddlebags holding puppies. A message below reads, “Backpacks take up space and hit people—please take them off while riding the train.”

Yes, this is a GIF of a GIF. (OUTFRONT Media)

The GIFs are meant to feed information to riders in the only form society can now handle: funny little videos with cute animals. “Our goal is to provide these messages in an engaging way that earns peoples’ attention, which we believe will make the point of the messages resonate more,” says Jason Kuperman, chief product marketing officer for OUTFRONT Media. “The topics cover things such as not taking up more than one seat, standing aside to let people on and off the train in order to make station stop times more efficient, and even the common courtesy of covering your nose when you sneeze.”

Right now the GIFs now only appear in one location, but they could soon spread to more than 90 stations as the media firm installs its flat screens throughout the system. Will this create Blade Runner-esque barrage of advertising, with commuters unable to avoid confronting creatures doing adorable things while stressing best train practices?

Kuperman doesn’t think so. “The PSAs run in a rotation and are only 15 seconds long, so we don’t believe they create visual overload,” he says. “So far we have heard only positive things—maybe because people are used to this kind of imagery nowadays, or maybe because they enjoy discovering these amusing visual treats during their commute or transit journey.”

OUTFRONT Media

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    The Last Daycares Standing

    In places where most child cares and schools have closed, in-home family daycares that remain open aren’t seeing the demand  — or the support — they expected.

  2. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.
    Coronavirus

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

  3. Equity

    We'll Need To Reopen Our Cities. But Not Without Making Changes First.

    We must prepare for a protracted battle with coronavirus. But there are changes we can make now to prepare locked-down cities for what’s next.

  4. Coronavirus

    A Green Stimulus Plan for a Post-Coronavirus Economy

    A group of U.S. economists, academics and policymakers say the Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity to fix the economy — and the planet — for the long term.

  5. An African healthcare worker takes her time washing her hands due to a virus outbreak/.
    Coronavirus

    Why You Should Stop Joking That Black People Are Immune to Coronavirus

    There’s a fatal history behind the claim that African Americans are more resistant to diseases like Covid-19 or yellow fever.

×