losing control is the price you pay for outsourcing your on-bus advertising

We've only been back in the office a couple of weeks but I've already seen a number of tweets criticising bus companies for 'promoting the competition' by accepting ads on their vehicles for other modes of transport.

It's easy to have a pop but it's a hard one to balance.

To those bus companies who decide to sacrifice any on bus advertising to protect their brand, I salute you. To those bus companies who decide they can't do without that revenue, you obviously have your reasons.

The commercial realities are no doubt complicated and include many variables but one thing is certain - if you sell out you risk, by association, losing control of how your brand is perceived.

To my knowledge, this is how things work...

Depending on the size of the company in question, it may choose to outsource the selling of media space on/in its buses to a third party. This agency will then take an agreed percentage of the revenue they generate per vehicle.

Any agreement between the two may stipulate what type of ads are acceptable (we once proposed using petrol pumps in a campaign for Reading Buses but the ads were rejected by the agency handling the station's media placement) or it may not. 

I guess it depends on how much you need/value the cash.

The media agency might typically receive a booking on behalf of the local council (for example), detailing both the period of time and the number of buses/routes required. It will also show the rate card price, any discounts negotiated, what the ad space is (rears, T sides etc), what the campaign is called, who is producing the work and an all-important artwork contact. 

What the booking won't show is what that work will look like. The first time the bus company might find out they're flogging free city-centre parking at Xmas (for example) is when they see it on one of their buses.

The same principle applies to ads in newspapers and online - outsourcing can lead to the wrong ads appearing in the wrong places at the wrong times, and ultimately, adding to a poor perception of your brand.

Whilst the choice isn't totally back or white - taking the money or taking control - I'm afraid from a brand perspective there is very little middle ground.