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Good Question: How Do They Wrap Ads On LRT Cars?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They are the largest moving billboards in Minnesota, rolling from the Mall of America to Target Field. So, how do they get the ads on the light rail cars?

It’s a Saturday afternoon inside a Metro Transit maintenance garage and Joe Weisgerber is not hanging wallpaper.

He’s hanging oversized stickers, and attaching a giant advertisement for Mayo Clinic to a light rail car.

“It’s a big giant sticker, it’s sticky, have to deal with that factor — no bubbles, no wrinkles,” he said.

Joe is a hired-gun. He lives in California and works all over the country, so he’s like a carnival worker in the world of train and bus wrapping.

“I just came from Hawaii. We were doing buses, the same thing, putting graphics on buses,” he said.

Is it hard work?

“For me? No. I’ve been doing this for 15 years,” scoffed Weisgerber.

For this job, Joe and his partner will hang 22 humongous stickers on each side of the train. They carve out half of the windows, because they’re only allowed to cover half. Add in the front and the back, it’s 56 pieces. The entire process takes 8 hours.

What is the stuff?

“It’s a 3M product,” said Tom Cummings, Vice-President and General Manager of Titan 360, the company Metro Transit hired to sell the ad space on the train.

Titan gives 65 percent of all sales to Metro Transit, with a guaranteed minimum in 2011 of $3 million for bus and train advertising. Light rail is about $1 million of that.

“When it’s time to pull it off, you peel it off just like you would a post-it note,” said Cummings.

The paint isn’t damaged in the process.

“We want to keep the train looking good,” he said.

Metro Transit has 27 train cars and just three can be out of service at any time.

“This is unusual that it happens during the day, often it happens overnight during the lightest service time,” said Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland.

“Get in, get out, get them wrapped fast. That’s very important for us,” he said.

That’s part of why the hired-guns are brought in to wrap the trains. There aren’t any local people with the expertise to do the job so quickly, according to Cummings.

3M warrantees the graphics for a year – the stickers don’t fall off, and the colors don’t fade. And they use a special window sticker for the windows, which have enough open space for passengers in the train to see out.

The cost?

“It is well worth the price,” laughed Cummings.

Ad rates vary based on how long customers lock in the ad for, but it ranges from $10,000 to $15,000 a month. Cummings said most clients buy at least 12 weeks, because of the high cost of printing the graphics.

To print, install, and remove the wrap costs another $16,000.

Still, it’s a very popular product, according to Cummings, largely because the Twin Cities light rail system is all at eye-level. No subways, no elevated tracks.

“Wrapped trains in the twin cities market has been huge. It’s the wow factor,” said Cummings.

The same 3M technology is used on buses and is also on Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis.

The same crew applies graphics to skyscrapers in New York and Chicago, so doing a train certainly isn’t as scary as being 40 stories in the air.

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