This Bus Makes Stops At Nowhere And Clueless

August 8, 2014 by Dave Haynes


There are so many great, smart people in this industry, but also so many knuckleheads coming into it with big dreams, bravado and only the most fleeting grasp of what they’re up to.

I regularly burst the balloons of people who call or write to tell me about their plans to get rich installing screens in <insert just about anything here> and make bazillions off of advertising. My all-time favorite remains the guys in Branson, Missouri who were waaaaaay down the path of starting a network in hotel lobbies, and sought my advice on calculating ad revenues. I said  a lot of people used CPMs as their benchmark.

“OK, good, good,” they said. “What’s a CPM???”

Yesterday, a start-up company sent around this email to more than a dozen vendors. I will spare them from too much abuse by not naming or linking:

I’m emailing you all because I am looking for the best Digital Signage Company that can provide the entire solution for an In-Bus Digital Signage Platform that I’m creating.  

When I say “Entire Solution” In mean the following: 

1. TV Monitors (2 Per Bus) 

2. Security Protection Case for the TV Monitors

3. Digital Signage Software

4. Installation of Software & Hardware

5. Anonymous Video Analytics

6. FM Transmitter System

We intend to install this platform gradually by only incorporating it into 3 Buses of a Major Bus Line that we are entering a contract with in Los Angeles, CA. If you refer to our link below you have a better understanding of what we are trying to accomplish. Please let me know if you can provide us with this complete digital solution. 

Upon finding the right company, we’ll be introducing them to our Transit Partners, and will grant them access to their buses in order for them to provide an accurate quote. We look forward to hearing from you. 

The company website was built on Wix, a free website site, and the email to return your expression of interest was an (in other words, also free) account. Impressive. The two brothers running this start-up provide only the vaguest background on who they are, and there is no sign of actual experience in media.

But they want vendors to fully scope out what would be a very involved, highly-engineered project based on scant details and the opportunity to install it on three buses in suburban LA, on a network running a transit advertising business model that has been tried and has failed countless times.

In the followup email, which they evidently copy to all the vendors they approached, those that responded are named and critiqued. The guys then go on to say they’ll shortlist within the week, and two weeks from now, those vendors can head on in with them to meetings in LA with the suburban bus line. So put in the effort to give them free engineering, planning and process guidance to help them sell their deal, and eat the travel costs to LA, as well.

And, by the way, those first three buses will be up and running by November, aka roughly three months. Which won’t happen unless they duct tape tablets with SIM cards to the handrails.

The only reason to even reply to this would be boredom (most real clients are on holiday), desperation or sheer amusement.

The sad thing is there are so many of these guys drifting around there chewing up time for vendors, and for end-users, who are reluctant to invest in proper digital sign systems because there’s this seemingly endless parade of people coming in saying they’ll do it for free and get their money back through advertising.

So many people seem to think the media business is dead-easy. Create a media property. Sell ads. Get rich.

It’s actually really, really, really hard for all but a few anomalies.


  1. Ian says:

    … Even very very hard for those of us pretty successful at it.

  2. Raffi Vartian says:

    Excellent venting on a Friday morning!

  3. Hello Everyone, I’m Sebastian Velmont and this post is about me. Thank you Mr. Haynes for you’re insight into our new venture. I’d feel the same way about me if I was you. Your blog expresses your passion about the industry, and I admire that.

    However, with every form of criticism there should be an added element of teaching. With your vast understanding of the In-Bus Digital Signage medium, please shed more light on how one can become successful in it. I’d love to see such a post.

    Thank you again for your frankness, for as we welcome all forms of honesty that can led to our journey towards success.

    Note: Our ( webpage was not intended for the publics eye, it was created as a private link to give vendors a more interactive idea of our concept, rather than a 12 page business plan that they might only skim through.

    We look forward to seeing your post.

    Sebastian Velmont, Founder
    Mobilvision TV

  4. Marc Lemay says:

    Here’s a little bit of light Mr. Velmont:

    I’m a beginner when it comes to digital signage, but know a little something about radio. When it comes to an “FM transmitter system”, obtaining a license from the FCC for that alone is damn near impossible, especially in the crowded radio market known as Los Angeles. If you’re talking about a way to transmit audio to the bus riders, you might want to look into cell technology vs. FM. Besides, with all the hills, valleys and tunnels, FM would inherently be a bad way to transmit audio from a head end to a bus. Since the proposal wasn’t clear as to why you would need an FM transmitting system, that’s my only guess.

    Forget about inside bus advertising…how about OUTSIDE bus advertising? Replace the cardboard signs with digital signage! I’ve seen cab companies with rotating taxi tops, why can’t buses do the same? Especially with the advent of thin screen/presentation materials, this might venture to be a better way to target local/regional advertising. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I’m on a bus, I’ve either got my nose in a digital device killing time or trying to pull my nose out of someone’s private parts because the bus is over crowded. Using the same methodology that companies use for traditional transit ads on buses, but multiple ad availability.

  5. Marc Lemay says:

    Oh, and Dave – the irony of the screen “Clueless” on a MBTA bus brought an evil grin to this resident (and occasional MBTA commuter) of Greater Boston.

  6. We were destined to meet like this Mr. Haynes. I believe this is a start to a new found relationship between the both of us within the digital space. I’m honored and pleased that you took the time to evaluate our concept and present valid pros, but essentially, cons to its success. Someone once told me “One great book can save you from 5 years of Bullshit”. I add to that “One great Blog can save you from 5 years of Bullshit.” Thank you.

  7. ‘@ Mr. Lemay. Thank you as well for such great questions and insight. The FM Transmitters is to eliminate the sound from the TV Monitors and allow only the passengers that want to listen to our Short Form Transit Episodics and Ads to do so. All-in-all, we are taking away audio distractions from the drivers and the passengers who prefer silence.

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