Steamship Authority (SSA) members will consider guidelines that would determine the type of advertising allowed aboard SSA vessels and in terminals when they meet Tuesday.
The Steamship Authority agreed last November to begin selling advertising space, in an effort to generate outside revenue. As a result, this year poster advertising has begun spouting up on ferry walls that were previously adorned only with artwork from local artists and school children.
In a telephone conversation with The Times Tuesday, Steamship Authority general manager Wayne Lamson said he was presented with a request to advertise from Bacardi this summer. Mr. Lamson said he rejected the ad because he thought it was best to proceed cautiously, but he decided it was important to have a set of guidelines.
Marc Hanover, Vineyard Steamship Authority member, said that the board members are looking at all avenues to avoid the need to raise fares in the face of increasing costs, particularly for fuel oil. Mr. Hanover said that not allowing liquor companies to advertise would significantly limit the opportunities to generate ad revenue.
Mr. Hanover said such ads are ubiquitous in transportation centers around the country, and the board appears willing to consider accepting them, but with some limits. "I am just concerned that on the Island Home the advertising not be anywhere near the presentation by the Martha's Vineyard Museum," said Mr. Hanover. "But I think we are going to broaden our view of what is permissible on the boats and see how that goes."
The Steamship Authority board agreed to the idea of poster advertising last year. In a November 2006 meeting, Mr. Lamson said the goal was to attract select national advertisers such as Mercedes Benz and American Express, using the services of Prestige Media of New York, N.Y., a company that lists several transportation companies as clients, including Hy-Line Cruises and Block Island Ferry.
At the time, Mr. Lamson said the sale of advertising space would be limited to only three poster ads per vessel and one per terminal for a total of 20 posters. He estimated the boatline would earn $80,000.
Mr. Hanover and Flint Ranney, Nantucket Steamship Authority member, agreed with the cautious approach. The board voted unanimously to authorize Mr. Lamson to enter into a contract with Prestige Media Inc.
The Steamship Authority receives advertising revenue by selling space in the boatline's pocket schedules, brochures, on its web site and poster space on vessels.
Steamship Authority treasurer Bob Davis said that in 2007, the boatline signed an agreement with Prestige Media to market display poster space. The SSA expects to receive $26,658 in 2007 from display poster advertising, Mr. Davis said.
An earlier effort to sell advertising space and produce a so-called "in-float" magazine, modeled after the in-flight publications frequently found on airlines, was introduced during the tenure of the last boatline executive, Fred Raskin. The proposal raised such a ruckus that the boatline gave up on the effort.
The draft guidelines regulating advertising on the Steamship Authority's facilities (available here) were taken from those used by Massport, according to Steve Sayers, SSA lawyer.
The guidelines stipulate that the Steamship Authority facilities are "non-public forums subject to the reasonable, uniform and viewpoint-neutral restrictions" outlined by the authority, and not all advertising will be accepted for display.
The guidelines describe 16 categories of ads the Steamship Authority finds unacceptable. Some are outright prohibitions; others require a certain amount of judgment.
The Steamship Authority will not display ads that demean or disparage an individual or groups of individuals. It will not allow ads that promote the sale or use of tobacco or tobacco-related products. Profane language is also not allowed.
Ads with weapons get a qualifier. An ad would not be allowed if it contains an image of a weapon in the foreground of the main visual or an image of a weapon that occupies 15 percent or more of the overall advertisement.
The guidelines also take on controversial subjects that have tested the courts and flummoxed lawmakers, such as violence, obscenity, nudity, and sex.
An ad will not be allowed if it "contains an image or description of graphic violence, including but not limited to the depiction of human or animal bodies or body parts, or fetuses, in states of mutilation, dismemberment, decomposition or disfigurement, and the depiction of weapons or other implements or devices used in the advertisement in an act or acts of violence or harm on a person or animal."
Item nine is listed as "prurient sexual suggestiveness." It prohibits "material that describes, depicts or represents sexual activities or aspects of the human anatomy in a way that the average adult, applying contemporary community standards, would find appeals to the prurient interest of minors or adults in sex."
Adult-orientated goods and services may not be advertised. The Steamship Authority is more accommodating in the sale of adult beverages.
Ads will not be accepted that contain political campaign language, for example referring to a specific ballot question, or ads containing "false, misleading or deceptive speech."
Ads promoting the sale of alcoholic beverages must contain a statement "occupying at least three percent of the area of the advertisement, that indicates the legal drinking age in Massachusetts and warns of the dangers of alcohol consumption during a pregnancy, or in connection with driving any vehicle or operating heavy machinery, and do not depict individuals appearing to be under twenty-one years of age in the advertisement and are not targeted to appeal to persons under twenty-one years of age."
The general manager reviews all ads, and the Steamship Authority can ultimately decide to reject an ad if management decides it falls under one of the prohibited categories.