The New York Times takes over the subway

The media company has transformed train carriages and stations into immersive spectacles inspired by its various platforms and products

Public transport has been transformed by the digital age. Whether travelling for work or pleasure, people will often pass the time from A to B in the company of online media, podcasts, playlists, or games.

Led by its in-house team, the New York Times’ new immersive experience capitalises on the relationship between public transport and digital media. The company has launched a takeover of the S shuttle subway between Times Square and Grand Central station, which will be in place until September 10.

“The subway system is part of life in New York City and the Times offers products for every part of life. However, not everyone knows that,” say Jordan Jacobson and Chris Skurat, associate creative directors of growth marketing at the Times. “As a result, we decided to go big within the subway to show that what the Times offers goes far beyond our front page journalism.”

Each carriage is an incarnation of its many sub-brands – from News to Games – with playful designs representing them. The Cooking carriage, for instance, takes the form of a kitchen, while another has been turned into the New York Giants’ locker room in a nod to its sports platform, the Athletic.

Aside from making a visual impact, many of the designs are meant to be interactive. The Spelling Bee carriage turns the space into a large-scale puzzle. Another invites people to share their memories of the subway with the potential for it to be published in Metropolitan Diary – the newspaper’s crowdsourced journal about New York City, which has been running since the 1970s.

“We had six products we wanted to highlight and six train cars to work with, which gave us the opportunity to highlight each product individually, while showing how together they add up to all of the Times,” say Jacobson and Skurat. “Each interior was transformed into an unexpected, immersive environment, with the colour palette of each product wrapping the exterior. The interior language has the wit of a New Yorker, with insider, contextual references wherever possible.”

The experience extends beyond the shuttle train to the station itself, where walls, pillars, stairways, and digital displays are covered with ads for the Times. There are also three pop-ups planned for the 42 Street shuttle station at Grand Central, including one offering up dinner ideas (on September 6) and another allowing people to play Wordle with others (August 30).

It’s a big, in-your-face push, but the subway link makes it feel like a natural match. The takeover picks up from the brand’s All In campaign, which looked to seamlessly weave together all of the various products and brands owned by the New York Times.

“New York is our home base and in our name, making the Times an integral part of this great city,” said Amy Weisenbach, senior vice president and head of marketing at the New York Times Company. “As a result, New Yorkers have a lot of pride and stake in our journalism, but they don’t always know everything about us. We’re looking to change that by bringing New Yorkers beyond the front page they think they know and putting our full suite of products on display.

“By showing up within the subway, we hope to surprise subscribers, readers, home cooks, solvers and sports fanatics and give them a new way to use the Times for their commute and in their everyday lives.”