Transit advertising

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Transit advertising
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Transit advertising is one form of outdoor advertising, a category that also includes billboards, phone booths, and taxis. Changes in the market for outdoor advertising and the evolution of the advertising sales industry have and will continue to affect transit agencies and transit advertising in significant ways.

Transit advertising especially valuable when an advertiser wishes to target adults who live and work in major metropolitan areas. The medium reaches people as they travel to and from work, and because it taps into daily routines repeated week after week, transit advertising offers an excellent means for repetitive message exposure. In large metro areas such as New York City- with its 200 miles of subways and 3 million subway riders- transit ads can reach large numbers of individuals in a cost-efficient manner. The once-utilitarian bus stop has also become big business, with all the usual complications, as outlined in the Ethics box.

When working with this medium, an advertiser may find it most appropriate to buy space on just those train or bus lines that consistently haul people belonging to the demographic segment being targeted. This type of demographic matching of vehicle with target audience derives more value from limited ad budgets. Transit advertising can also be appealing to local merchants because their messages may reach a passenger as he or she is travelling to a store to shop[1].

A few national advertising sales firms account for the bulk of transit advertising sales, particularly in large media markets. Regional and local firms serve mid-size and smaller media markets that primarily appeal to local advertisers and thus do not need the connections to national advertisers that the large firms offer.In major US media markets, Viacom Outdoor is now the leading company for sales of transit advertising. Viacom Outdoor sells bus advertising in 9 of the 10 largest US markets[2].

Advantages of transit advertising

There are several advantages of transit advertising[3]:

  • precise, concise, and consequently effective
  • generally lower in cost than any other advertising medium
  • captures attention primarily because of its size, colour, and position
  • can appear for a brief or long period of time in strategic locations
  • exposure may be frequent, depending on the viewer's method of transportation
  • may be seen by large and diverse groups of individuals
  • may be timely, depending on the viewer's location in proximity to the advertiser
  • generally reaches its intended target media

Disadvantages of transit advertising

There are several disadvantages of transit advertising[4]::

  • transit advertising does not allow the advertiser to communicate products features and benefits or the product's advantages over its competition
  • transit locations or positions may be limited or not available when advertisers desire them
  • may not be seen as a result of inclement weather or other conditions
  • is not necessarily flexible, in that the message must be brief and the advertising must stay in place for a specified period of time
  • may reach people who are not necessarily interested in what is advertised
  • formats may not exist in some markets. Not every city has mass transit, for instance.
  • may be destroyed by inclement weather


  1. T. O'Guinn, C. Allen, R. J. Semenik 2010, p.588
  2. B. Schaller 2005, p.16
  3. E. Applegate 2011, p.184
  4. E. Applegate 2011, p.186


Author: Adam Jawor