Controversy Surrounds Ads on Connecticut River Ferries

Advertisements for a law firm flanking the sides of two Connecticut River ferries will come down and be redesigned following backlash from passengers.

Carter Mario Injury Lawyers advertises on CT Transit buses, and this year, the same banners have adorned the Hadlyme-Chester and Glastonbury-Rocky Hill ferries – until today.

"The advertiser requested that the signs be removed from both ferries," said Kevin Nursick of the state Department of Transportation, "so that they can be modified to more accurately reflect the context and character of both of those ferries."

Cindy Mario, of Carter Mario Injury Lawyers, agreed that the ferry "is not the place for advertising" and said the firm only agreed to it after the company responsible for its bus advertisements "explained that the ferry is in trouble and they need money to keep advertising so they had to turn to advertising."

"Putting our bus billboard up there was not the plan," she said in an email to NBC Connecticut on Tuesday, adding that the firm is designing another ad better suited to the "beautiful and serene" nature of the ferry.

"We are in the process of having some artwork done with an old antique picture of the ferry and perhaps an educational timeline," she explained.

One of the ads has already been removed from a ferry traveling between Glastonbury and Rocky Hill.

Ferry passengers said they were surprised and unsettled by the presence of advertisements on board.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all. It kind of took away from our trip,” said Daniella Markowski, of New Britain. “We were going up to see Gillette Castle and I wasn’t expecting to see any kind of advertisements, just one nice day.”

Nursick said the DOT will keep the $5,000 paid for the ads, and that the money will go toward offsetting the massive operating loss of more than half a million dollars per year, he said.

The DOT raised ferry fares this year in an effort to compensate for lost revenue, and selling ad space brought in an additional $5,000.

Carter Mario issued the following statement Tuesday:

"We agree and can empathize with many of your viewers that the ferries are not the place for advertising. The fact is that Carter Mario Injury Lawyers was approached by Signal Outdoor, which contracts ad space with the CT Department of Transportation for their busses and ferries. We were asked to place ads on the ferries for this season due to the fact that the ferries in our state needed revenue via advertising to help keep them operating.

"We agreed to place ads in that spirit – a Connecticut business lending a helping hand to a truly iconic part of our Connecticut River.

"The artwork that was placed on the ferries by Signal Outdoor was actually placed without the law firm’s approval, which was the same artwork as the law firm’s bus advertising, seen statewide.

"When we learned that the ads were running, we asked the CT D.O.T and Signal to take down the ads immediately so that something more fitting could be designed and put in its place honoring the ferries and their history.

"We are currently working with our ad agency to design a historically-inspired timeline mural of the Connecticut River and the ferries – which we hope will be in place soon.

"We will continue to give support to worthy causes, like the ferries, across our state, as our firm does each year, donating over $150,000 to various charities in 2014 alone.”

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