Your client riding the nation’s subways
The hot way to reach people is on their smartphones
September 17, 2012
Subways have a high dwell time and thus a captive audience, which has always made them a good out-of-home opportunity for reaching commuters.
Now, with 45 percent of the population now owning a smartphone, advertisers are finding new ways to connect with commuters.
Many use their smartphones to help pass the time, and advertisers are increasingly including mobile tie-ins with their subway campaigns.
This can range from simple QR code campaigns to posters allowing people to shop with their phones right on the spot.
To find out how to get your client on subway systems, read on.
This is one in a Media Life series on buying out-of-home venues. They appear weekly.
Advertising on the nation's subway systems.
Three vendors hold the bulk of subway contracts in the U.S., and coverage varies by market. In a given market one vendor may handle advertising in stations and on platforms, while another may handle ads on trains.
How it works
The hottest way to advertise in subway systems is to include a mobile element, and there are a variety of possibilities.
The simplest is a sign or poster that includes a QR code that, when scanned with a smartphone, can link users to anything from a branded mobile site to a video clip of an upcoming movie or TV show.
But subway campaigns with mobile tie-ins can be more creative and even drive purchases on the spot.
Recently the online grocery store Peapod placed signs at subway platforms that looked like supermarket shelves. Commuters used their smartphones to scan items that appeared on the sign, allowing them to purchase the items through their phones and have them delivered to their homes later that night.
In another campaign, the clothing retailer Gap rewarded those who scanned a QR code with a coupon good for in-store use.
Mobile elements complement subway stations’ many traditional options.
These include signage in stations and at platforms, static signs on trains, ads in subway tunnels, and in some markets wrapped trains, both interior and exterior.
Some cities also have digital screens at platforms, which typically run a loop of content interspersed with both video and static advertising.
There are subway systems in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, Baltimore, San Juan and Cleveland.
Numbers vary by market. In New York, home to the most subway riders, average weekday subway ridership was 5.3 million in 2011, with annual ridership at 1.6 billion. Both numbers were the highest since the early 1950s.
With many subway campaigns now including mobile components, the latest data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds 46 percent of adult men and 45 percent of adult women own a smartphone.
How it is measured
Transit authorities track paid ridership on subway systems.
What product categories work well
Recent or current subway advertisers include telecom, travel, retail, electronics, web sites, TV networks, sports teams and consumer packaged goods.
Ridership demographics may vary by market. In New York adult subway riders are 52.6 percent female and 47.4 percent male, according to Scarborough Research.
Seventeen percent are ages 18-24, 25 percent are 25-34, 20 percent are 35-44, 17 percent are 45-54, 12 percent are 55-64 and 9 percent are 65-plus.
Sixteen percent have an annual household income at $25,000 or below, with 13 percent between $25,000 and $34,999, 18 percent between $35,000 and $49,999, 15 percent between $50,000 and $74,999 and 38 percent at $75,000 or above.
Making the buy
Lead time is typically three to four weeks, although turnaround can be quicker in some cases provided inventory is available. The minimum buy is usually four weeks.
Pricing varies depending on the elements involved, but CPMs average in the $5 range.
Who's already used subways
Current or recent brands that have used subway advertising include Samsung, Peapod, Google, Target, Gap, American Airlines, New York Rangers, MetroPCS, Macy's and VH1.
What they're saying
"The greatest asset is the fact that you've got captive audiences and long dwell times. And because there's a proliferation of smartphones, and in many of these environments you can get a signal on your phone, that allows you to connect the dots." — Dave Etherington, senior vice president of marketing and mobile Titan Worldwide
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