Steering Clear of Common Mistakes in Transit Advertising

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You’ve got 99 problems, transit advertising should not be one.

Advertising by itself is one tricky business. There are so many variables to consider from location, to ROI, to target audiences, and the list goes on. When you add transit advertising into the mix, things can get even pricklier.  

Now, it’s no secret that transit advertising is a powerful and cost-effective way to reach a broad and diverse audience. Whether it’s on buses, trains, trucks, subways, or even taxis, your message can be seen by thousands of people daily. However, despite its potential, many advertisers make mistakes in transit advertising that hinder their ability to really make the most of their marketing investment. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore some common pitfalls and offer tips on how to navigate them to ensure you stay on top of your transit advertising goals and save your business a lot of money in the long run. 

Let’s dive into some common mobile advertising mistakes and how to avoid them.

  1. Measuring ROI Effectively

One of the most critical aspects of measuring return on investment (ROI) is having a robust tracking system in place. Without proper mechanisms, you won’t know how many people have seen your ad, visited your website, or made a purchase as a result of your transit advertising efforts.

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Solution: Implement tracking tools such as unique promo codes, custom landing pages, or UTM parameters in your digital marketing campaigns. This allows you to attribute specific actions to your transit ads, providing a clearer picture of their impact on your ROI.

For instance, Movia Media’s unique onboard beacon technology, which is placed on every vehicle, offers online analytics that track the success of your campaign in real time. It even offers a re-targeting feature, for devices that come into contact with your mobile billboard with custom frequency re-targeting thresholds, so you can re-engage those who have interacted with your ads a set number of times. 

However, despite having effective tracking systems in place, an all too common pitfall is neglecting data analysis. Data analysis is the compass that guides your transit advertising efforts. It empowers you to make data-driven decisions, refine your strategies, and maximise your ROI. By evaluating performance metrics, conducting A/B testing, segmenting your audience, optimising budget allocation, and committing to continuous improvement, you’ll not only measure the impact of your transit advertising but also ensure its long-term effectiveness in reaching and engaging your target audience. In a data-driven world, transit advertising becomes not just a message on the move but a dynamic strategy that evolves with the times.

  1. Overlooking Your Target Audience & Strategic Ad Placement 

Ignoring your target audience and neglecting strategic ad placement are costly mistakes in transit advertising. To ensure that your advertising efforts are not in vain and that ROI measurement remains accurate, invest time and resources in understanding your audience’s preferences and behavior.

An important step in understanding your target audience is to go beyond learning their demographic information, and understand what role they play in the path to purchase. These roles can often be divided into the following categories:

  • The Decision Maker: This is the person who ultimately makes the purchase decision.
  • The Supporter: The supporter may not have the power to make the decision, but they will have a  heavy influence on whether or not an item gets bought.

Once you’ve really honed in on your target audience, the next step is to decide how to reach them. Repeat after us: placement, placement, placement! It’s important to carefully select ad placements that maximise exposure and relevance to your target demographic. By addressing these crucial aspects, you’ll set the stage for transit advertising campaigns that not only capture attention but also deliver measurable results, ultimately driving a higher return on investment.

When considering strategic ad placement, think about the location and context of your transit advertising in relation to your target audience. Poor ad placement can make it challenging to reach your target audience as well as generate and assess the true impact of your transit campaigns. Here are a few tips to consider when determining ad placement: 

  • High-Traffic Areas: Choose transit routes and stops in high-traffic areas where your target audience is likely to be present. This ensures that your ads have maximum exposure to potential customers.
  • Relevance to Business Location: If you have a physical store or business location, consider ad placements that are geographically close to your establishment. This helps drive foot traffic and directly ties advertising to in-store visits, making ROI measurement more straightforward.
  • Complementary Environments: Align your ad content with the environment where it’s placed. For example, ads for a fitness brand may be more effective in subway stations near gyms or health-conscious neighbourhoods.
  • Competitive Analysis: Research your competitors’ ad placements to identify opportunities or gaps in the market. Avoid ad placements that may lead to your message being overshadowed by a competitor’s campaign.
  • Dynamic Ad Placement: Consider dynamic ad placement strategies, such as time-sensitive promotions or seasonal messaging. These tactics can help create a sense of urgency and boost engagement.

When it comes to truck advertising, choosing the right time of day and hours on the road is crucial. This ensures that your ads are displayed at peak times that align with your audience’s lifestyle, daily routines and overall viewing habits. Think about the nature of your product or business and align your ad visibility to key areas that your audience is likely to visit throughout the day. 

  1. Unclear or Over-complicated Brand Messaging 

Too much, too little or too contradictory – are phrases to steer clear of when putting together your transit ad concept. In other words, another common and equally detrimental mistake in transit advertising is the use of unclear, overwhelming or contradictory messaging. Have a look at the image below. Need we say more? 

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When your message is displayed on a moving vehicle or in a busy transit environment, you have only a fleeting moment to capture the attention of your audience. Failing to convey a clear and concise message can lead to confusion, missed opportunities, and difficulties in measuring the ROI of your transit advertising campaigns. 

While clarity in messaging is crucial for transit advertising success, the design of your ads plays an equally vital role. Overly complex transit ad designs can overwhelm viewers, dilute your message, and make it challenging to measure the return on investment (ROI) effectively. It is therefore essential to strike the right balance in your transit ad design and offer strategies for creating visually impactful yet straightforward ads.

Transit ads often have limited space and time to capture the viewer’s attention. A common mistake is overloading the ad with information, leading to confusion and a lack of message recall. When people can’t understand or remember your ad, measuring ROI becomes challenging.

Solution: Keep your message concise and clear. Focus on a single, compelling message or call-to-action. Use eye-catching visuals and a memorable slogan. A well-designed, straightforward ad is more likely to resonate with your audience and lead to a measurable response.

  1. Neglecting Mobile Integration

In today’s digital age, people carry smartphones wherever they go. Neglecting to integrate mobile marketing with your transit advertising can be a significant missed opportunity. Not providing a way for potential customers to interact with your brand digitally can make it difficult to track and measure ROI.

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Have you ever heard of the term, shadow-fencing? Shadow-fencing is a dynamic geofence that shadows the mobile billboard wherever it drives. Here, a mobile billboard unit’s GPS data automatically changes the targeting parameters of digital campaigns to serve ads within a specified distance of the mobile billboard in real-time. Oftentimes, a trail continues (approximately 5 minutes) to serve ads to those who just viewed the mobile billboard.

Mobile integration provides a convenient way for viewers to interact with your brand while on the move. Whether it’s accessing a website, scanning a QR code, or clicking a link, mobile offers accessibility and ease of engagement. When viewers engage with your transit ads via mobile, you can capture valuable data. This data includes user preferences, location, and behavioral insights, which can inform your future marketing strategies.

Strategies for Effective Mobile Integration in Transit Advertising:

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  • QR Codes and Short URLs: Include QR codes or short, memorable URLs in your transit ads. These direct viewers to a specific landing page, promotion, or product page on your website. By tracking the number of scans or clicks, you can measure engagement and ROI.
  • Mobile-Optimised Landing Pages: Ensure that the landing pages linked to your transit ads are mobile-friendly. A responsive design enhances the user experience, encourages longer visits, and increases the likelihood of conversions.
  • Mobile Apps and Geofencing: If your brand has a mobile app, consider using geofencing technology to trigger location-based notifications or offers when users are in proximity to your transit ads. This real-time engagement can boost conversions and ROI.
  • Mobile Payment Integration: If applicable, integrate mobile payment options into your transit advertising campaigns. For example, allow viewers to make purchases or reservations directly through mobile payment apps, simplifying the conversion process.
  • Social Media Engagement: Encourage viewers to follow your brand on social media platforms by including social icons and handles in your transit ads. This fosters ongoing engagement and provides an avenue for measuring ROI through social metrics.
  • Interactive Mobile Elements: Incorporate interactive elements such as augmented reality (AR) or gamified experiences that can be accessed via mobile devices. These unique experiences not only engage viewers but also offer opportunities for tracking user interactions.
  • SMS and Text Marketing: Include a call-to-action that prompts viewers to send a text message to a designated number to receive exclusive offers or updates. This allows you to build a mobile subscriber list for future marketing efforts.
  • Push Notifications: If viewers opt in, send relevant push notifications to their mobile devices. These notifications can include personalized offers, reminders, or event information, fostering ongoing engagement and conversions.

Leveraging Location to Maximize Brand Awareness

Now that we’ve gone through common transit advertising mistakes and how to avoid them, let’s take a look at a stellar example of leveraging location to maximize brand awareness, and thereby tap into a new target audience. 

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There’s always lots of excitement surrounding the opening of a new store! However, the challenge can sometimes lie in getting the word out. PetSmart teamed up with Movia Media for the opening of its Cochrane, Alberta location, in an effort to generate brand awareness and to tap into a new customer market.

To accomplish this, both a delivery truck and a delivery van were wrapped with ads announcing the opening to the city’s 32,000 residents. Given the familiarity of their stores, the space was utilized to make the logo and “Open” message as big and noticeable as possible.

Location of routes was an important part of the strategy, with vehicles chosen that were delivering to nearby businesses around and within the shopping plaza. Potential customers would assume the trucks were PetSmart-owned vehicles, so besides getting the message out, it would help telegraph that the store was already busy. 


Transit advertising can be a valuable addition to your marketing strategy. By targeting the right audience, crafting clear messages, integrating mobile marketing, implementing tracking mechanisms, and analyzing data, you can maximize the impact of your transit advertising campaigns. In doing so, you’ll not only reach more potential customers but also gain valuable insights into the return on your advertising investment.

Talk to a Mobile Billboard specialist today