Just weeks after they went up on the two historic Connecticut River ferries, ad banners purchased by a law firm have been removed and "are being redesigned" to "better suit the context and character of the ferries."
A state spokesman said the ads triggered "some negative feedback" from people who use and love the small state-owned ferries. Those complaints prompted Carter Mario Injury Lawyers, the firm paying $5,000 a year for the right to advertise on the ferryboats, to ask that the banners be removed temporarily.
One irate ferry devotee, Jean Hall, emailed The Courant complaining that the ads were "defacing the ferry" she uses regularly.
"Both ads are being rehashed," Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said Monday. "I think what they're trying to do is come up with advertising that adds to the experience of these historic ferries."
Greg Davis, a spokesman for the advertising firm working for Carter Mario, said the ad banners that initially went up on the ferries were using the same type of colorful advertising the firm has used for years on the sides of Connecticut Transit buses.
He said the ferry ads were "kind of thrown on there" without consulting with anyone from the law firm. "They were not right for the ferries," Davis said.
Davis said the advertising firm is now "creating something more historically inspired" and "more fitting" for operations that have become an iconic part of the Connecticut River landscape and history.
The state sold the ad rights to the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury ferry and the Chester-Hadlyme ferry in an effort to help offset $650,000 in annual operating deficits. Proposals to shut down the ferries have cropped up whenever the state is facing serious budget troubles.
The Rocky Hill-Glastonbury ferry is the "oldest continuing ferry service" in the United States and has been transporting people across the Connecticut River since 1655. The small barge-tugboat operation now in use carries more than 16,000 vehicles a year between the two towns.
The Chester-Hadlyme ferry was started in 1769 and has been owned by the state since 1917. An estimated 38,800 vehicles a year use this ferry.
Nursick said he believes representatives of Carter Mario Injury Lawyers are "trying to get historic photos of the [Glastonbury-Rocky Hill] ferry as it has been transformed over the centuries." The photos could then be used as part of a "more subdued" advertisement for the law firm, Nursick said.
He said he's not sure what the firm intends to do about changing the advertising for the Chester-Hadlyme operation.
According to Nursick, DOT officials received few complaints from residents about the advertising. Davis said the decision to revise the ads came after publicity in The Courant and on TV stations about people's complaints.
Nursick praised the law firm for being willing to "step up to the plate" with an offer that will help reduce the ferry operating deficits.
Davis said the idea behind the law firm's decision to buy ads on the ferries was an attempt to help prevent their closure.
"This was a Connecticut business taking a stand," Davis said, adding the intention was to have "not just an ad for the law firm" but to save the ferries for the future.