Commissioners are also expected to approve a general CCT advertising plan spelling out the county’s policy for such ads.
If commissioners give final approval, Signal Outdoor Advertising, of Orlando, will be allowed to sell ads on the inside and outside of CCT buses for three years and will split the net revenue with the county. Cobb would get 55 percent, and Signal would keep 45 percent.
CCT will receive a guaranteed minimum of $60,000 in the first year, $70,000 the second year and $80,000 in the contract’s final year. The contract is set to begin Sept. 1, and run through Aug. 31, 2015.
“We don’t pay them anything; they pay us,” said Rebecca Gutowsky, Cobb’s transit manager.
Signal has sold ads on CCT’s bus shelters for the last 10 years.
The county has previously prohibited advertising on the buses, but the Citizen Oversight Committee recommended it in June 2011 as one way to increase income. In August 2011, commissioners unanimously approved seeking an advertising deal for the buses.
County Chairman Tim Lee said some people believed advertising cluttered the clean-looking CCT buses. But with commissioners already voting last year to raise CCT fares from $2 to $2.50 for a one-way trip, other ways had to be found to bring money in.
“We’re in an economy where revenue is down, and we need to look at sources for generating revenue that we haven’t in the past,” Lee said. “That’s one of the things that made sense.”
The ads will come in various shapes and dimensions, and the county will approve all ad content before installation. Ads on the outside of the buses won’t be allowed to cover more than 25 percent of a bus’s windows.
“Certainly, the ad content will come to me, and I will share it with (Cobb Department of Transportation Director) Faye DiMassimo, and I’m sure that Mr. (County Manager David) Hankerson will also review it,” Gutowsky said.
CCT will prohibit ads for contraceptives or feminine hygiene products, or any ad that are sexually explicit in nature, as well as ad copy that is “contrary to the best interest of the transit system or may result in public criticism of the transit system or transit advertising.”
Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott said Friday that he believes advertising on buses is generally positive, although he had not yet reviewed the Signal contract.
“Although people may not like it visually, CCT is pretty heavily subsidized by the county,” he said. “Anything we can do to reduce that subsidy is a good thing.”
Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham had a similar thought.
“It’s a revenue-generating opportunity for the county, so providing that contractually it looks good, I don’t foresee a problem with it,” Goreham said.
Gutowsky expects the county’s income from the ads to exceed the required minimum, though she didn’t have projections.
“This is a good market for advertising,” she said. “It takes a while for any advertising program to get started, but once it gets going, the county can expect more than the minimum amount of revenue.”
It’s taken about a year to get to a deal, Gutowsky said, because in two previous county requests for proposals, Signal was the only firm to submit a bid. The county didn’t review those because they weren’t competitive, she said.
The county made a third request in May, and this time, CCT invited bidders to see the buses on a Sunday, when the buses weren’t running.
“They really wanted to just come out and see the dimensions,” Gutowsky said.
As a result, two additional firms — Gateway Outdoor Advertising of Hackettstown, N.J., and Renaissance Marketing of Savannah — offered proposals. Based on those offers, county officials ranked Signal as their top choice to negotiate with.
County commissioners will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the second-floor meeting room at 100 Cherokee St., Marietta.