Bus Shelter Advertising: Is It Right For Your Business?

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It’s well known that out-of-home (OOH) advertising is an increasingly effective tool for building brand awareness, with this backed up by the fact that up to 71% of customers regularly absorb the messages posted on roadside billboards.

However, it’s thought that bus shelter advertising is even more accessible, with content of this type reaching as much as 92% of the population every single week.

But what are the main advantages of bus shelter advertising, and is it really right for your business? We’ll explore the answers to these questions in the article below.

Digital bus shelter ad in London

What is Bus Shelter Advertising?

Bus shelter advertising is a relatively self-explanatory concept. Also referred to as transit shelter ads, this describes promotional and marketing content that’s published on bus stops and stations nationwide, with a view to targeting commuters as they go about their daily business.

Typically, the most coveted bus shelters and spaces exist in busy and bustling high streets, particularly those in central locations that benefit from high levels of traffic.

The frequency of bus stops in bustling city locations continues to underpin the viability of bus shelter advertising, which enables brands to directly target and communicate to their ideal audience along heavily commuted roadways.

What Types of Bus Shelter Advertising are Available?

Typically, suppliers segregate bus shelter advertising into two distinct categories; namely classic and digital.

We’ll explore these categories in a little more detail below, while asking what separates one from the other.

Classic 6 and 16-Sheet Posters

Classic or traditional bus shelter ads utilise affordable materials such as paper, while differently sized billboards are commonly used to advertise brands at individual bus shelters and stations.

For example, compact, 6-sheet ads are often used at individual bus shelters, with these ads typically measuring 1800mm x 1200mm (or 1.8m x 1.2m).

According to a study from 2014, this poster size actively doubles brand recall, while simultaneously boosting purchase intent by as much as 47%. So, it packs a genuine punch from a brand perspective, while bus stop iterations can arguably help businesses to reach a more targeted audience effectively (we’ll touch more on this later in the piece).

Similarly, you may see 16-sheet traditional ads inside larger bus and train stations, with these entities boasting considerably bigger dimensions (3048mm x 2032mm).

This type of ad will typically be elevated above the floor, while it’s most likely to be used in high-traffic locations in major city centres such as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

There are thousands of classic bus shelter ad panels in use across the length and breadth of the UK, and you’ll find that, as with other forms of paper outdoor advertising, it’s typically more cost effective to book these ads for a booking of two weeks or longer.

Digital Bus Shelter Ads

Interestingly, there are far fewer digital bus shelter ads available in the UK, although the exponential growth of the underlying technology and the rising popularity of the media is helping to gradually correct this imbalance over time.

In general terms, digital bus shelter ads may be more expensive than classic alternatives, which is true of digital out-of-home (DOOH) media channels as a whole.

These displays are also referred to as ‘interactive’ ads, as they’re equipped with contemporary technologies that allow for far greater levels of engagement between customers and brands.

For example, digital posters may feature motion detection, which can trigger a specific sound or animation when potential consumers pass by.

Bus stop advertising

In 2015, an interactive bus shelter ad was erected in Ayr’s town centre (Sandgate), with this using motion sensors to trigger the sound of a man coughing when people passed by or came to a standstill at the stop.

This is followed by the voice of a woman urging people to contact their GP if they’ve had an unexplained cough for three weeks or more. Similarly, they were compelled to encourage others to visit their doctor if they’ve had similar symptoms, as part of a campaign to build lung cancer awareness and boost early detection rates.

Digital ads can also feature touch screen and facial recognition technologies, allowing for various types of real-time interaction at times when customers may be more inclined to engage with brands.

Of course, it’s these cutting-edge technologies that contribute to the additional cost of digital bus shelters and DOOH as a whole, but in theory this can be compensated by increased engagement levels and a higher ROI on your total marketing spend.

What are the Potential Benefits of Bus Shelter Ads?

We touched earlier on the potential advantages of using 6-sheet posters as part of your marketing campaign, but this is just one of numerous benefits available to brands when they engage in bus shelter advertising.

We’ve outlined some of the other advantages below, while asking why they’re so important from the perspective of advertisers.

You Can Reach a Large Number of People

We’ve already discussed the fact that bus shelter ads can reach as much as 92% of the UK population each and every week, and this is undoubtedly one of the main selling points for this type of outdoor advertising.

To put this into further context, it’s thought that up to 6.5 million bus commuters are served every day in London alone, with this highlighting a huge target audience for businesses to communicate with.

Of course, reaching this volume of customers means little unless you’re able to engage them effectively, which is one of the reasons why tech-led digital displays have become so popular in recent times.

Even on a fundamental level, however, all bus shelter ads can work by targeting key demographics at specific times of the day, which is highly beneficial when promoting products or services amongst commuters.

For example, those who commute to and from work by public transport every day (particularly in large city centres such as London) are most likely to be young professionals. Members of this demographic will travel to and from work at specific times of the day (depending on the primary employers in any given location), creating a detailed insight into a core target market and its typical behaviour.

In this instance, a local fast-food outlet could look to create content aimed at promoting their menu to commuters as they make their way home from work.

This way, they’re adopting a targeted approach that seeks to reach customers at a time when they’re most likely to engage with the brand (and the core product that they’re attempting to sell). This can result in increased sales and conversion rates over time, all through a relatively simple marketing premise.

Of course, digital bus shelter ads may be even more impactful in this instance, as their content is controlled remotely by a CMS and they’re able to display changeable messages at different times of the day.

DOOH ad in London

You Can Reach Out to Customers in Your Target Geographic Area

Bus shelter ads (both classic and digital) are particularly beneficial to small and medium-sized businesses, and there’s a very simple reason for this.

More specifically, SMEs or start-up ventures typically serve a regional community before they begin to scale, which means that they tend to draw customers from a restricted, local catchment area.

Given this and the high levels of exposure provided by bus shelters within most regions of the UK, this type of ad channel enables businesses to achieve large numbers of targeted and tangible leads over the course of a particular campaign.

This can lead to increased sales conversion rates over time, while ensuring that you achieve the best possible return on your total marketing spend.

The reach of bus shelter ads also provides new businesses with an immense opportunity to build brand awareness within the local area, which can provide a solid foundation for future campaigns that may be focused on a particular product, service or promotion.

To fully capitalise on this, you may also want to consider investing in moving or mobile billboards. This term refers to billboard ad that’s placed on the side of a bus or similar vehicle, in order to mobilise your marketing efforts and maximise the reach of a specific message.

This, when combined with classic or digital bus shelter ads, can quickly build brand awareness within even large catchment areas without requiring you to compromise on your key demographic reach.

You Can Create Visually Appealing and Eye-Catching Ads

Earlier in the piece, we talked about how digital bus shelter ads can use motion sensors and similar technologies to develop effective and genuinely creative ads.

This translates into the creation of ads that are memorable and eye-catching, while it also lends itself to the development of content that stimulates multiple senses simultaneously.

The latter point is particularly telling, with one particular study showing that sensory marketing techniques increased sales volumes by 10% overall. This represents a tangible benefit for businesses to keep in mind, particularly from the perspective of bottom-line profits.

However, even classic bus shelter ads can be visually appealing and engaging, as they essentially provide a blank canvas on which you can deploy high quality imagery and striking colour contrasts to catch the eye of commuters.

Remember, commuters often look for content to engage with during their daily travels, which means that bus shelter ads offer an immersive and non-intrusive medium through which to communicate with customers.

This fact, combined with the use of striking and eye-catching visual designs, can really optimise the impact of your bus shelter ads in the minds of target consumers.

Bus Shelter Ads vs. Billboards – What’s the Difference?

The lines between bus shelter ads and classic billboards are blurred to say the least, as they all belong to the same family of OOH media – where 6 and 16-sheet bus shelter ads sit on the smaller end of the spectrum, 48 and 96-sheet billboards sit on the larger, more striking side.

Of course, smaller bus shelter ads afford you less marketing real estate to work with, with more compact displays demanding concise text and the careful selection of images. You’ll need to select the right type and size of font for 6 and 16-sheet posters, and creating striking and eligible ads can be a difficult balance to achieve.

Conversely, larger billboards generate much more space for your imagery and primary marketing messaging, along with any contact details that you’d like to include. The nature of the larger format leaves a significant impact, and allows for you to create bold, eye-catching ads that clearly communicate your message to a bigger audience.

48 and 96-sheet billboards tend to be elevated off the ground, and are widely used to target consumers at busy roadside locations. So, you may use them as part of the same, integrated campaign when promoting your brand, depending on your budget and the precise audiences that you intend to target.

The Last Word – Are Bus Stop Ads Right for You?

Ultimately, bus shelter ads are a compact and affordable marketing option, which are ideal for SMEs who want to build awareness amongst a large local audience.

It’s also great for brands that want to target commuters and young professionals in particularly busy central locations, which typically see a large number of people use public transport on a daily basis.

However, much depends on the precise audience that you want to target, as some demographics are less likely to use buses than others. And with the number of buses in rural communities having been reduced slightly in recent years, larger, roadside billboards may offer more value in many locations.

You’ll need to understand your target market in detail prior to investing in bus shelter advertising, while also ensuring that public transport usage is prominent in specific areas. And in areas where bus shelter advertising may not reach your target audience, traditional roadside billboards will always be a reliable choice.

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