6 min read

What is Transit advertising and is it right for me?

In the information era, it has never been harder to win the consumer’s attention. Ever wondered why tech companies like Facebook, Netflix, and Google – the kings of online advertising, if you will – turn to out-of-home advertising when introducing their newest product or feature?

The reason is simple: If you want to spread the word and get people talking about your brand, you go with out-of-home. OOH is one of the oldest and most enduring forms of advertising for a reason. You simply can’t ignore it. It includes everything from billboards and posters to displays in airports, shopping malls, and transit vehicles.

Now, let's talk about one of the most impactful forms of out-of-home media – not billboards but transit advertising. According to the American Public Transit Association (APTA), transit advertising generates over half a billion dollars reaching up to 83 percent of commuters on weekdays and 69 percent on weekends.

Transit advertising is an efficient and effective way to make a significant, memorable impact. Commuters on public transport are looking for a distraction. Transit audiences are not as fragmented as they are online; not only do they enjoy transit ads, they respond to them, giving brands the unmatched opportunity to go viral on the socials.

Let’s look at transit advertising in detail, breaking down why this lucrative form of out-of-home advertising should be an integral part of your media spend.

What is Transit Advertising?

Also called advertising on transport, transit advertising is outdoor media placed in or on any mode of public transportation. It's advertising media we experience in (and on) buses, trains, taxis, subways cars, bus shelters, and train stations. Transit advertising is about leveraging the moment when commuters are in waiting, looking to be engaged.

Transit advertising helps you reach the masses in a powerful way that builds brand recognition. It’s localized advertising that is visible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and gives you the ad exposure to amplify your brand message.

A Quick History of Transit Advertising

The earliest record of transit advertising dates all the way back to the mid-19th Century. Local department stores would affix their advertising on horse-drawn streetcars that literally drove their messaging across cities. Much like modern advertising, streetcar operators contracted space on their horse-driven carriages as a side-gig.

It wasn’t until 1883 when streetcar advertising became a full-fledged business for some contractors. At this point, transit advertising became common in trains and railway stations. The introduction of larger cable-drawn cars revitalized the advertising industry as these new cars were better lighted and furnished and had more advertising space.

Transit advertising has come a long way since the 1850s. It has evolved right alongside modern means of transportation, from the inception of commercial airlines to the advancements in rail and road transportation.

Advancing from streetcar panels, it’s not uncommon to see entire vehicles wrapped in advertising today. For the right price, you can cover public buses in advertising adapted to the very shape of the vehicle – not a nook or cranny missed.

There's no shortage of transit real estate in today's fast-paced world. Your audience can be found everywhere on public transportation and on the streets of urban and rural cities. Transit advertising offers a unique opportunity to reach your audience on their everyday commute.

The best part is: the demand for out-of-home advertising grows as digital advertising proliferates the world. People are looking for a distraction, and you can capture their attention on their way to work.

Types of Transit Advertising

Transit advertising targets the millions of people who use or come across public transport facilities every day. It offers unparalleled ad exposure to drive greater frequency and impact for your marketing campaigns.

And with various types of media, transit advertising is flexible, creating countless opportunities to layer your messaging and marketing campaigns. Here’s a breakdown of all forms of transit media.

1. Bus Media

Bus advertising includes ad displays placed in or on public buses. Bus advertisements are available everywhere you can find commercial busses. You can rent ad space on both local and national buses depending on how far you’d like your messaging to reach.

For the masterminds of advertising, buses are the perfect moving canvas. Some of the most creative ads can be found enveloping city buses. In an advertising-dense world, bus advertising can help you give your messaging an original twist that gets tongue wagging.

When done right, bus advertising can go viral going beyond the scope of street viewers to reach a much wider audience on the socials.

Exterior bus advertising helps you garner the most impressions possible, while interior advertising keeps your audience engaged.

2. Commuter Rail

As with bus advertising, rail advertising presents an opportunity to break up the monotony of commuting with both interior and exterior branding media. Commuter rail advertising is one of the most effective ways to reach commuters in major, busy markets.

Whether you’re a big national brand or a small business, rail advertising is an opportunity to connect with your audience on their daily rail rides.

Want to get your brand story heard? Rail advertising is the perfect media for you. You can advertise your brand in the trains, on platforms, and in waiting areas.

Commuter rail reaches a captive audience that includes everyone from lunchtime shoppers to professionals on their way to work.

With large, colorful media, you can intersect with consumers at various points of their commute. Rail advertising is placed in trains, near station entrances and exits, and on platforms. It's a great way to get in close proximity to your audience, and considering the amount of time people spend on trains, it's a chance to interact with your target demographic.

3. Subway Media

Subway advertising gets your brand in front of your audience right when they need a distraction. Take the New York subway, for example; with some of the longest commuting times in America, it keeps the city going by moving millions of people at any point in time. An ad placed on the NYC subway garners millions of impressions multiple times a day.

No matter the city, the average daily commute gives you ample time to illustrate your brand story and connect with commuters. Whether through car cards, digital units, or posters, subway ads get you noticed and provide enough frequency of exposure to make an impact.

4. Truck-Side Media/Mobile Billboards

Delivery trucks are full-blown billboards on wheels. Truck-side advertising offers the opportunity to saturate a market with a fleet of roaming billboards. Truck-side ads are hard to miss as they flow through traffic. Trucks present creative, eye-catching ads at eye level as they traverse major interstates and thoroughfares, targeting your customers wherever they are.

They combine the mobility of transit advertising with the high-impact power of billboard advertising. With large-format ad space, branded trucks provide incredible visual space for your message in any market (even ones where there are no billboards). It's a chance to couple the commanding presence of billboards with the reach and targetability of transit advertising.

In advertising, bigger is always better. And moving ads are more likely to be recalled. Looking to drive results and heighten awareness? Mobile billboards go directly where your target demographic lives, works and plays. With real-world behavioral targeting, you can dominate an entire market or cast down your marketing campaign to a hyper-local level.

5. Taxis

Cabs are some of the most popular forms of transportation, especially in major, crowded cities. Taxi ads include any form of advertising placed on top of, inside, or wrapped around a taxi. Its advertising is targeted mainly at those who see the taxis rather than those riding in them.

Taxi ads are a cost-effective yet impactful way to spread your message across a city. Buying ad space on a fleet of taxis can help you dominate a market. Unlike buses, taxis don’t have predefined routes taking your message to the hottest spots within towns. From airports and entertainment spots to city centers, taxi advertisements are high-frequency ads that bring your brand along for the ride.

What about rideshare advertising? Nowadays, rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft are dominating the taxi market. Like regular taxis, you can advertise on car tops, interiors or wrap the car with your branding. Since these cars are owned by individuals, you'll have to work with ad vendors who have agreements with drivers. Rideshares is an evolving industry that can offer great ad space traversing your messaging in cities, big and small.

Transit Ads: Paving the Way for Brand Engagement

Why go for transit advertising? Transit advertising gets massive audience exposure and has a geographical advantage other forms of outdoor media can’t match. Think of the millions of people who use public transit in any major city; transit media allows you to reach them at opportune moments.

Buses and trains are the most common transit channels in the United States, providing your audience with repeated exposure to your ads. You can localize your ads and hyper-target a particular demographic or market segment. More importantly, transit ads demand attention.

When it comes to transit advertising, you’re limited only by your imagination. Today, technology has enabled a new level of creativity in transit advertising. Digital transit ads allow for brands to interact with commuters in all the ways that matter. You can create dynamic and flexible content to reach your desired audience. And you can synchronize the displays to deliver the right message to your audience every step of the way.

Combining traditional media with innovative technology makes transit ads powerful digital tools. Transit advertising is a win in every aspect – it’s cost-effective and comes with high engagement and impression rates. When creative enough, they can entice, engage and accompany your audience throughout their commutes.

 

Want to see if Transit advertising is a good fit for your brand or next campaign?

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