By William Dixon
Transit advertising has become a vital tool in the out-of-home (OOH) media sphere, and its usage today goes beyond just a posting on the side of a bus. By successfully harnessing transit routes and a wide variety of advertising options, brands can broadcast their messaging along crucial thoroughfares, reaching many corners of urban centres where static imagery might not.
Despite the shift during the pandemic to pour resources into online advertisements, digital fatigue has weaved itself increasingly into pandemic fatigue. As a result, many brands have invested in areas outside of online advertising. In fact, more traditional OOH formats have seen a pronounced resurgence in the last year—particularly those delivering contactless, seamless experiences, which create lasting impressions on consumers. With well-known brands such as L’Oreal, Hugo Boss, and Chanel investing in transit advertising for the first time in recent history, it is clear large-format transit vinyl has begun to re-emerge as a popular canvas for some of today’s more captivating campaigns.
The effects of Toronto transit takeovers
Consider an average commuter’s daily journey within a large urban area such as Toronto. As they move around the city, they are likely to encounter many forms of transportation—including streetcars, subways, and light rail transit (LRT) trains. This presents the perfect opportunity for brands to capture the attention of key audiences using visually stunning full vehicle wraps and murals. Look no further than last year’s Hugo Boss campaign as evidence of a high-end, modern canvas with the ability to cut through the downtown core of Canada’s most populous city.
Not only are transit ads eye-catching, but they also have the numbers to back up their efficacy. Businesses in industries from fashion to communications to food services and beyond are taking advantage of this opportunity to capture key markets in Toronto.
For example, sports betting site Rivalry launched a transit campaign in the city in May 2022. When asked if they had seen the campaign, nearly one in five residents recalled coming across the Rivalry streetcar domination, and among them, 57 per cent took action after seeing the campaign. Within that category, 22 per cent ended up placing a bet, 17 per cent visited the company’s website, and 11 per cent created an account.1 Evidently, transit campaigns are making a quantifiable impact.
However, streetcar, bus, and train wraps are not the only way to reach audiences with transit advertising. Some brands have also taken part in full “station dominations,” where their campaign is plastered on walls, pillars, stairs, and posters throughout a select transit hub. In fact, Pantene implemented one of these takeovers last spring at Bloor-Yonge Station. Featuring ET Canada’s Sangita Patel, the high-impact installation greeted subway riders around almost every corner and garnered a great deal of attention. One in five residents recalled seeing the station domination, of which 54 per cent took action. Fourteen per cent followed Pantene on social media, another 14 per cent looked up the ingredients of their new formula, and 11 per cent searched nearby retailers for the shampoo and conditioner.2 By creating an ad experience that greets commuters and moves with them through the station, brands can better connect with their audience and influence their next shopping trip to any number of retailers along their journey.
Streaming giant Amazon Prime Video has also found success in leveraging transit campaigns in Toronto. In their October 2022 campaign for The Rings of Power, close to one in four Torontonians recalled seeing a transit ad touting the release date of the new series. Not only did they achieve visibility, but they also resonated with key audiences, including Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) riders, work-from-home individuals, essential workers, and young adults between the ages of 18 and 34—all target demographics for Amazon Prime Video. After viewing the campaign, 69 per cent took action. Eighteen per cent started watching The Rings of Power, 17 per cent watched the trailer, 16 per cent added the show to their watch list, and 11 per cent binge-watched it.3 Indeed, transit advertising is not merely for fashion and beauty brands. The entertainment and media services category is seeing a rise in revenue which can be attributed to the impact of OOH advertising.