Advertising on ambulances: A slippery slope?

While it may be a big deal to us industry insiders to have advertising, it may not necessarily be to the person driving his vehicle behind a rig in afternoon traffic

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: With some ambulances in California set to become 'moving billboards' to promote good causes, our Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh gives his perspective on the article we posted this week and on the wider potential issue. What's your take? Is this a sign of things to come? Share your views in the member comments section below.

Synergy is defined by Merriam-Webster as a "mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or resources."

This all fits pretty well with this story. I think it's a great idea that an ambulance could serve as a rolling billboard for institutions and causes closely related to public health or safety.

There is an ambulance service not too far from me that has the logos of local high schools displayed on the side of their standby units during football games. I think helping to advertise these things can help promote a closer sense of community and greater awareness of matters related to public safety or public health.

On the other hand, does advertising create a slippery slope? Could a manufacturer of emergency equipment, for example, make a case for advertising its products on the side of an ambulance in exchange for underwriting part of its operational costs?

I can see, through small degrees of rationalization, that one could eventually get there. Our sister site, FireRescue1, recently ran an article on Kentucky Fried Chicken's plan to market 'fiery' wings on hydrants in Indiana. Less controversial is an initiative in London, where ambulances carry adverts on the side advising the public not to call the emergency 999 number unless it is an emergency.

Overall, does advertising of any kind detract from the fundamental image of an ambulance? Frankly, I'm not sure of how the public views its EMS vehicles.

Unlike fire suppression and police vehicles, ambulances come in a very wide variety of configurations and have an even greater variation of paint schemes, logos and names emblazoned on its sides.

While it may be a big deal to us industry insiders to have advertising, it may not necessarily be to the person driving his vehicle behind a rig in afternoon traffic.

Finally, a safety note: Any advertising should not detract from the ability of the unit to be seen and easily identified as a medical rescue unit. We are already involved in a greater proportion of crashes than the average driving public.

Advertising, by design, is meant to catch your attention, so it shouldn't be an issue. On the other hand, I saw a transit bus the other day with a full wrapper advertisement that made it look like a very large hot dog. It certainly caught my attention, but not necessarily for the right reason.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook writer, author of "EMT Exam for Dummies," has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at

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  2. Ambulances / Emergency Vehicles
  3. EMS Management

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