Advantages And Disadvantages Of Transit Advertising

Have you ever been on the subway and seen posters on the hub walls for some new fall TV show? Or have you ever seen a city bus rush by with a broad advertisement of the next big Hollywood blockbuster?

If so then you have been exposed to transit advertising. In fact, if you live anywhere near a town or city, you have probably been the target of transit advertising because around 30 million consumers have reported seeing some form of transit advertising or another.

It’s amazing how you start to see it everywhere once you are actually paying attention!

Transit advertising can also be referred to as OOH advertising or out of home advertising. As the name suggests, one of the advantages to this type of advertising is that the consumer doesn’t have to be home to see it. It can be displayed in high-traffic areas virtually anywhere as evidenced in this video.

But is this form of advertising all it’s cracked up to be? What are the limitations? In the following article we are going to be discussing the pros and cons of transit advertising and who is most likely to benefit from it.


What Transit Advertising has Already Done

We have personally seen transit advertising campaigns work tremendously well for some people. Lawyers specializing in auto accident litigation have found tremendous success with transit advertising on city buses.

This is probably because transit advertising is a great way to reach your target audience. In a very telling study, it was found that an impressive 55% of consumers exposed to transit advertising reported feeling highly engaged with the message of the ad.

Another very revealing fact about this advertising medium is that it has been around forever. In an age where almost every aspect of our lives has been digitized, we are seeing that transit advertising is still very common.

One of the earliest traceable instances of transit advertising goes all the way back to the year 1850 in New York when street cars drawn by horses would be posted with panel signs promoting popular department stores in the city.

So for over 100 years, transit advertising has been a viable way for business owners to get their message to the people who are likely to use their products or services.

The staying power of transit advertising alone is a testament to the effectiveness of this media but longevity is not the only thing that keeps this form of consumer outreach relevant.


The Effective Nature of Transit Advertising

So what exactly is transit advertising? What qualifies as transit advertising and what doesn’t? A lot of people hold to the misconception that transit advertising is relegated to public transportation vehicles like city buses and subways.


And while these are indeed types of transit advertising, the medium is not as limited as that. Transit advertising is a method of placing ads on public and private transportation vehicles or in transit stations like bus terminals and subway platforms.

The ads themselves are usually print media but they can be digitized. Think of LCD displays on the top of Flywheel taxi cabs that flash animated advertisements for different businesses.

Because people typically spend 45 minutes in public transportation vehicles, transit advertising can get your ad firmly planted in the minds of consumers. Many people take public transportation every day to get to work or school.

That means that some people will be face to face with your ad for an hour and a half every day. Other advertising platforms would kill for that kind of consumer face time. This dense exposure is one of the greatest advantages to transit advertising. By nature, it is an effective way to grow brand recognition.


The Various Types of Transit Ads

Transit ads may be more versatile than you think. The popular misconception is that they are relegated to the outside of fast-moving city transit vehicles that no one really pays attention to. But the reality is that this type of advertising allows for a great deal of flexibility.


Rooftop Ads

There is a lot of advertising space to be had on the tops of city buses and some brands have effectively leveraged this space. Rooftop ads are typically placed on the tops of city buses so that people in high-rise buildings can clearly see the message.

Indoor Ads

Indoor ads refer to any type of OOH ad that is housed inside a transit station or hub. Posters advertising anything within the halls or in the platforms of bus, train, airports or taxi stations can all be classified as indoor transit ads.

Onboard Ads

Onboard ads are the most common type of outdoor ad since they refer to any transit ad placed on the outside of a vehicle.


Digital Transit Ads

Digital transit ads can be made to display multiple images, phrases or logos. They are usually flashed across an LCD display screen of a taxi, bus or train. Multiple businesses can run digital transit ads on a single LCD display.


Static Transit Ads

Static transit ads are printed posters, bills or leaflets that are affixed in either an indoor our outdoor transit setting.


Audio Transit Ads

If you would rather speak your message to your demographic, you can opt for an audio transit ad. They can be played over the loudspeakers of buses, subways and trains so that the people riding don’t even have to be looking in any particular direction to hear your message which could be spoken-word or an effective jingle.


The Exciting Advantages of Transit Advertising

There are many reasons why you should consider transit advertising for your brand or company. Here are just a few of them:


Regular Exposure

Many people rely on public transportation and use it on a daily basis. This provides a great opportunity for people not only to get familiar with your brand; but also the message you want them to hear.

Transit ads tend to stick in the minds of consumers because some see them everyday, multiple times a day.


Effective Placement

Mass transit systems are used by people going about their regular routines. They use public transportation to run to the grocery store, shop for home goods, buy gifts for their loved ones and more.

The product or service you supply may fall directly in line with the needs of people riding mass transit systems and therefore transit advertising offers an effective product/service placement opportunity.


Geographic Strategy

Transit advertising provides marketers trying to reach a specific geographic demographic the opportunity to do so. Trains and buses all have specific routes and can be leveraged to reach a strategic neighborhood or community.



This type of advertising tends to be one of the most affordable with a very high ROI. Many people opt for transit advertising because it presents a cost-effective option for increasing brand recognition.


The Drawbacks of Transit Advertising

There are 2 sides to every coin and transit advertising is no different. There are a few areas in which it falls short such as:


Coverage Redundancy

While reaching the same people on the same commute day in and day out may work for some companies, it can hamstring others.

Transit ads tend to be seen by the same people everyday, wasting ad reach on people who may already be sold on the product/service or on people who have already decided not to use the product/service in question.


Audience Reception

Not everyone is thrilled about taking public transportation. Some people use it because their car is in the shop or because their license has been revoked. This tends to dampen the mood of the audience and makes them less receptive to your advertising message.


Difficult Copy

It is notoriously difficult to come up with effective copy for transit ads. Not only are you competing with a lot of other ads in the same space, but you have to make sure your ad is clear and eye-catching without being overwhelming.

You need something that will effectively take notice and eventually take action!


Internet Vs. Transit Advertising

Internet advertising offers people the opportunity to collect valuable consumer data and measure results with laser like accuracy. They can see which links and ads are converting and which aren’t. With transit advertising, you are more or less in the dark as to how effective your campaign is unless it is either clearly successful or clearly a bust.

On the other hand, transit advertising can allow you to target a very specific market, demographic and even geographical area while internet advertising tends to cast a wider net that may be wasted on a demographic you have no use for.

In this sense, transit advertising may make more sense for a company operating within a specific region while internet advertising may be more beneficial for someone selling a product or service that can be deployed state, nation or worldwide.


Final Thoughts

Transit advertising provides a lot of unique solutions for marketers and fledgling companies to reach a very specific audience for an affordable price. And despite the copy limitations it presents, it could be a perfect solution for you if you do have a clear and attractive message to send to consumers.

It may not be for everyone but if you feel like transit advertising would suit your needs, remember to know your target audience and place your ads in strategic areas for maximum ROI.