Is Bus Advertising Effective?

The wheels on the bus go round and round, and so do the advertisements. If you’re a commuter, a public transit patron, or a walker/driver in central neighborhoods, you’ve been frequently affected by bus advertising. There’s no way around it. Bus advertising is designed to market to consumers in a direct, and easy to understand, format. Bus advertising delivers, for the most part, clear, universal messages that center around food, hospitality, fashion, upcoming events, listings, lifestyle branding, and a plethora of other fields. These messages can be seen wrapped around a bus, interestingly used in bus shelters, and inside the vehicle to give consumers a reason to look out. This OOH advertising channel is so effective because of its large reach aimed to target to just about everyone in eyesight. According to the Canadian Out of Home Marketing and Measurement Bureau (COMMB), outdoor advertising has an overall weekly reach of 81% for people ages 5 and up. Let’s look at how bus advertising registers with consumers, examine the strengths of both indoor and outdoor bus advertisements, and understand the types of bus ad displays.



A bus wrap strives to influence everyone passing by


Why Bus Advertising Matters

Bus advertising is a triumphant OOH mechanism geared towards everyday people on-the-go. Advertisers use bus advertising because they are guaranteed a great reach at an affordable cost, depending on size, area, and longevity. It’s effective in reaching out to both men and women, of various age groups, because awareness about a product/service sees no gender, really. Of course, a bus ad advertising waxing strips from a predominantly female business will cater to women. However, bus advertisements are not usually gender-based. They’re for everyone to see!

Emotional connections could stem from an effective bus advertisement as well, such as environmental issues faced head-on or non-profit community services. Position these advertisements on or inside buses and consumers can be woken up to make the listed change. Exterion Media talks about engaging audiences with an emotional brand connection.

Advertising with buses motivates viewers to take action; giving further incentives by way of call-to-action for consumers to investigate the advertised brand. In doing this, bus advertising also creates viewer interaction, especially in bus shelter executions, to communicate with and share the advertisement if it stands out creatively.


A bus shelter advertisement done in a creative way will drive consumers to the service, no doubt


Strengths of Interior Bus Ads

Interior advertisements on buses get the consumer when they’re their most vulnerable… in public. Typically, on a jam packed bus there’s nothing left to do but stare aimlessly at your surroundings or out the window. If you manage to get a seat, then kudos to you. You may be the target for an interior bus ad, but you’re more likely to ignore the signage because you have another activity to do (read a classic, listen to a podcast, etc). However, if you’re standing on a bus and notice, for a short second, a bright ad above your head, chances are you’re going to be thinking about what you’ve witnessed after departing the bus. The bus ad managed to get your gaze and snag your attention. Effectively, you’re now aware of a product/service on your commute that you probably didn’t think much about before the trip. That’s power.

Interior bus ads can reach a highly targeted demographic surrounding lifestyle, purpose, and religion. Almost 75% of consumers take action after seeing an indoor ad, which likely includes visiting a website from the call-to-action. Transit riders typically spend over 1 hour commuting each day, so that’s plenty of time for bus advertising to provide opportunities for them to envision themselves investing in a product/service. 1 in 4 Canadians use transit each week, with 22% riding on the bus or streetcar. This begs for advertising space meant to influence daily riders.


Interior bus ads target the commuter head on


Strengths of Exterior Bus Ads

Exterior bus ads have the effect to generate a mass reach very quickly. Their large presence, in an outdoor environment, make for a high number of impressions for people not limited to commuters. Consumers are 33% more alert when outside their homes making lasting brand impressions an important device. There is also no seasonality when it comes to exterior bus ads. Levels of awareness throughout the year for bus advertising in an outdoor space stay, on average, the same. The season holds no bearing on the campaign’s effectiveness.

A bright, colorful design, with short copy truly makes or breaks a bus advertisement. If it’s not eye-catching at first, someone passing by an exterior bus ad won’t look back at it. The goal is to make a lasting impression, something in which that viewer can be able to recall later on. Thankfully, most known exterior bus ads follow this rule and effectively communicate with their audiences.

In terms of short-term promo, new product launch, and line extension, the recall of the bus advertisement is high in consumers. They’re interested to know of innovations in an OOH way, most likely on the exterior of a large, passing vehicle. It’s the starting point for new information. The average recall for a transit shelter is 37.9%, which is a high amount for a single ad medium part of a marketing mix.


Exterior bus ads target just about everybody outdoors, whether walking or driving


Types of Bus Ads

Briefly, let’s put a name to the face of bus ads that are familiar to you:

– King and Queen Signs are bus advertisements that are displayed on the exterior sides of the bus

– Tail Signs are displayed on the backs of buses

– Interior Cards are placed near the ceiling on the interior of buses

– Bus Wraps are ads that cover the entire bus, planned after a specific theme for the ad campaign (ex. upcoming, thrilling movie ads)

Bus advertising continues to be effective because of its large reach, its ability to connect with viewers both emotionally and momentarily, and its unlimited interior and exterior displays catering to more than just the daily commuter. As long as buses will prosperously run, so will their advertising comrades.


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  • Good afternoon,
    I woud like to receive infos and rates about a bus/metro campaign for Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto lines.
    The company is considering ivnesting for a private campaign of 1 month in April 2020 on the mentioned cities.
    Thank you

  • Natasha Barrowman says:

    I would like to advertise an apparel store that’s launching online that has codeing on it

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