Transit Advertising: Creativity is Everywhere
Brands have traditionally regarded transit advertising as a way to expand the reach and frequency of ad messages. Ad graphics on buses, trains, bus shelters and street furniture enable brands to reach crowds of people in city centers as well as targeted groups of people in neighborhoods where billboards aren’t permitted.
Twenty years ago, wide-format digital printing sparked growth in transit advertising by making it easier for national and local brands to post big, dramatic visuals on the exteriors of buses and trains and everywhere people gather to wait for a bus, train, subway or airplane.
Today, transit advertising is experiencing a second wave of creativity and growth, thanks to creative applications, advances in print-production technologies, improvements in results-measurement capabilities and the proven ability to drive traffic to mobile marketing channels.
Transit advertising can now be regarded as a high-impact media, in part because creative designers have adapted successful techniques from experiential and event marketing.
To help brands capitalize on these new capabilities, out-of-home (OOH) media companies are beefing up their design and technology teams. Many rely on well-equipped wide-format graphics firms to help them execute their creative ideas. Here are some examples.
Customized Double-Decker Buses
Buses traveling through bustling downtown areas and high-traffic thoroughfares often serve as traveling billboards. With ads on the back and exterior, they deliver repeated ad visibility to pedestrians and commuters along routes serving a targeted demographic.
Forward-thinking companies such as Vector Media have started customizing some buses for use in experiential and event marketing. Clients increase the visual impact of the buses by combining printed adhesive graphics with 3D-printed elements, cut-out extensions, LED illumination techniques and live-streaming digital content on digital displays.
“Transit advertising has reached new heights with experiential, digital and mobile capabilities,” explains Marc Borzykowski, CEO of Vector Media. “And through partnerships with companies such as Geopath and Neustar Marketing, we can deliver product analytics in a way that wasn’t possible before.”
Founded as a billboard company in 1988, Vector Media now helps brands tell stories through a strategic combination of outdoor media assets and experiences designed to cut through the clutter. In 17 major U.S. cities, Vector Media utilizes a proprietary network of double-decker buses that brands can use for advertising, traveling pop-up shops or experiential activations. For example, for the luxury apparel brand Brooks Brothers, Vector Media created a custom pop-up showroom and lounge to promote its Supima cotton collection in a contemporary way. The enclosed lower-level of the bus housed product displays, garment racks, shelving units and custom lighting. In the lounge area on the top deck, pop-up shop visitors enjoyed music, refreshments and chances to win giveaways.
During the 2018 holiday season, Jaguar USA worked with Vector Media and their production partner Carisma Large-Format Printing to convert a double-decker bus in New York into a mobile holiday window. The eye-catching display featured a real Jaguar E-PACE SUV inside a hollowed-out bus filled with snow and holiday decorations designed by Jonathan Scott of HGTV’s “Property Brothers.”
To create the traveling store-window effect, Vector Media replaced some of the walls on the bus with a custom glass wall and installed interior LED lighting. They embellished the exterior with custom illuminations that cast a glow on the streets as the bus roamed the city’s key retail and commuter districts.
To enable car buyers throughout the U.S. to explore the holiday window on wheels, Jaguar partnered with Pinterest to enable users to digitally unwrap Pins featuring the new Jaguar E-PACE. Pinterest users could get a 360-degree view of the Jaguar E-PACE and engage with interactive hotspots to explore specific features.
The glass bus was featured on Jaguar’s home page. With Jonathan Scott’s help, the page generated millions of online impressions.
According to Kim McCullough, VP of marketing, Jaguar Land Rover North America, the campaign was inspired by New York’s magical holiday window displays: “By being mobile, our one-of-a-kind holiday display allowed us to spread holiday cheer throughout the city.”
“These innovative executions are made possible as result of deep, long-standing partnerships, including a decade-long partnership with our innovative production partner, Carisma Large-Format Printing,” Borzykowski says. “Their efforts and imagination have helped bring some of the most groundbreaking and unique ideas to life.”
More Engaging Bus Shelters
Bus shelters in various city neighborhoods enable advertisers to reach targeted groups of consumers. These eye-level ads give commuters something to look at or think about while waiting for the bus.
While backlit graphics continue to be popular for day and night visibility, selected shelters in high-traffic areas can also be converted into mini experiential activations or immersive brand environments. Creative designers can use a combination of adhesive vinyl, backlit graphics, digital kiosks and fabricated 3-D elements to convert shelters into places in which waiting commuters can actively engage with the brand messaging.
For example, beer lovers couldn’t help but notice this colorful bus shelter outside Denver’s Pepsi Center sports and entertainment complex. The graphics reminded sports fans and concert-goers that a 2019 Colorado law enabled them to legally purchase more than 3.2% abv beer at convenience stores such as Circle K.
The Integer Group hired the Street Media Group outdoor advertising agency to manage the design and production of the shelter. Street Media Group worked with the 3D fabrication department of Media Resources sign business in Canada to create the 3D bottles on the bus shelter topper. A long-time provider of 3D props and sign elements, Media Resources used its Massivit 1800 large-format 3D printer to print the 3-ft. tall bottles for this job. The bottles and caps were hard-coated, primed and airbrush painted. The six-pack box was made from one-half-inch styrene with aluminum angle supports. Street Media Group wrapped the entire bus shelter in red vinyl and installed the topper and ad graphics printed by Circle Graphics on three interior panels and the full back of the shelter.
Light Rail Trains and Platforms
Light rail systems are designed to encourage motorists in cities without subways or commuter railroads to use public transportation. As light-rail systems come to more mid-sized cities throughout the U.S., OOH media firms are developing more train-centered transit campaigns. In addition to posting brand messaging on the interior and exterior of trains, agencies design graphics to reach targeted groups of customers at the platforms where passengers begin or end their train trips.
One company well-equipped to produce graphics for light rail projects is BPGraphics in Phoenix, Ariz. BPGraphics has been producing grand-format and large-format OOH, POP and event graphics since 1961. Its 66,000 sq. ft. of production space houses screen-printing presses and a fleet of large-format and grand-format inkjet printers with dye-sublimation, latex, UV-curable and eco-solvent ink technologies. The facilities also include equipment for laminating, sewing, heat-sealing, routing, diecutting, bending and kit-packing.
With their nationwide network of installation professionals, BPGraphics can help brands and outdoor media companies execute projects that combine transit advertising with major events.
In 2017, Outfront Media hired BPGraphics for a train wrap/station domination project to promote Heineken beer. For this campaign, the brand messaging on the exterior and interior graphics on Valley Metro Light Rail Trains was reinforced with multiple outdoor graphics at the platform where Phoenix sports fans disembark to attend major league baseball and professional basketball games.
For a new Circle K transit-advertising campaign in Phoenix, BPGraphics created wraps and interior graphics for five trains as well as graphics for transit shelters throughout the city and backlit graphics, wrapped columns, mesh banners and kiosks at several platforms. This strategy makes sense because the graphics might entice public-transit commuters to stop by the Circle K convenience store in their neighborhood on the way to or from work.
According to BPGraphics’ marketing manager Nicholas Spade, train wrap and station domination projects require extensive knowledge of the graphic materials and adhesives that will hold up for the duration of the campaign. This knowledge is particularly important when graphics are produced for use in cities with different environmental conditions such as Phoenix and Houston. Some graphics will be applied for a few weeks; others will last for a year or more.
Installation expertise is critical. The transit companies that own the trains and buses expect vehicles to be wrapped quickly and professionally, even when the project involves installing a mix of window-perf films and adhesive materials on a variety of exterior and interior materials.
Spade agrees that the growth of experiential and event marketing has stimulated new levels of creativity in the design and use of transit advertising. When conferences, expos and sporting events attract an influx of visitors to a city, event sponsors and brand marketers maximize the number of impressions during the limited-duration event by wrapping trolleys, shuttle buses and taxis that transport visitors throughout the city. For the 2019 CES show that attracted more than 100,000 attendees to Las Vegas, the Outdoor Solutions media company hired BPGraphics to create a monorail wrap that would help Google stand out as the monorail carried the show attendees from the convention center to their hotels.
With extensive knowledge of printable materials, BPGraphics has helped clients create bus-shelter graphics that were engaging and interactive without electronics.
When tourism graphics printed on a mirrored acrylic panel were installed in a bus shelter, a commuter could see his or her own head atop the body of a person enjoying a zip-lining or fly-fishing adventure.
Other Forms of Transit Ads
Street furniture includes benches, kiosks and turnstiles that can be decorated with graphics as well as free-standing displays designed for eye-level viewing.
Airport advertising enables brand marketers to reach first-time visitors to a city as well as frequent-fliers who want to shop, dine or relax during lengthy layovers. OOH companies give brands access to a mix of printed and digital displays in locations where passengers wait for flights, collect baggage or exit the terminal. All displays are located for maximum exposure and designed to blend in with the overall architectural aesthetics of the airport.
While DOOH (the use of digital signage in OOH advertising) is on the rise, it is important to recognize that the way we ingest media in the public space is inherently different from how we interact with it on our phones and computers. “Outdoor executions enable advertisers to tap into their creativity to connect with consumers en masse and in a unique way. Digital signage isn’t always an ideal means of achieving this connection, particularly for public transit advertising,” Borzykowski says. “We have all become a little numb to screens and while digital OOH can be extremely effective when used creatively, we feel it’s important that advertisers not think of DOOH as a pure extension of their mobile or digital efforts.”
“Print media for transit is one of the most efficient ways for brands to connect with consumers,” he continues. “Transit ads have a lower CPM than any other major advertising medium.” With the right mix of transit-ad placements, he says an advertiser can reach up to 90% of a given market.
As the transit advertising industry continues to innovate, Borzykowski believes “now is a great time for advertisers to try this hard-to-miss, high-frequency format.”