The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Streetcars display Signs of the times
- Calcutta Tramways earns while it runs by advertising Columbia Tristar films

The masked, friendly neighbourhood Spiderman is perched atop a tram and keeps an eye on all the baddies of south Calcutta, while Stuart Little is busy taking a joyride in the north. From the Mel Gibson starrer, Signs, to the thriller, Reign of Fire, and upcoming films like XXX and Stuart Little 2, films distributed by Columbia Tristar, a global name, are giving trams a much-needed coat of paint and generating revenue for the cash-strapped Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC).

Twenty-eight trams are showing off advertisements in English and Hindi of all the films being released in Calcutta by Columbia Tristar, a major client of Accord Advertising Limited, which has signed a multi-crore, three-year contract with CTC for sole advertising rights.

“For the next three years, we hope to take Columbia Tristar films to the top of the charts in this part of the country, through advertisements on trams. The fact that trams are such an important mobile medium in Calcutta and are easily identifiable with the city’s rich culture has given the films rave previews,” says assistant branch manager of Accord Surjendu Bhakat.

CTC officers seem to be very happy with the deal. From tram-drivers to the operating managers, everyone feels that bright colours and “a good coat of paint”, with a few odd repair jobs as well, have given trams the much-needed boost before the Pujas.

“I must admit that the bright colours have resulted in the trams losing their uniform colour, but no one seems to complain about it. The colours look very nice and the film advertisements are something new and interesting,” said senior traffic officer of CTC Anupam Biswas. Following Columbia’s example, a Southern film-maker rented a tram for a day for a fabulous fee.

Officers said they were planning to overhaul old trams with the income generated from the advertisements.

S.K. Dey, managing director of CTC, was reluctant to divulge the financial details of the deal with Columbia Tristar. He said: “The CTC had been looking at advertisements on trams as a way of revenue generation for the company.”

Columbia Tristar officers were happy with the CTC deal. Marketing manager of Columbia Nitin Vikchandani said Columbia had been planning for a while to try an unconventional method of marketing its product in Calcutta.

“The first thing that came to mind was to give the trams a different look altogether. Then, we thought that since the trams pass through main thoroughfares in Gariahat, Bowbazar and Chitpur, we could reach out to a wide cross-section of the people and provide the perfect platform for Columbia’s progress,” says Nitin.

He added that the “trade feedback” has been mind-blowing. This is also reflected in the box-office of theatres of late.

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