Transit Ads Put your ads on the move by advertising in and on buses.

By Kathy J. Kobliski

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What It Is:
Advertising on, in or over entire public buses

Appropriate For:
Any business with a broad customer base and a decent budget

Typical Cost:
$500 to $4,000 per month, depending on whether you're purchasing exterior and/or interior bus signs or wrapping the entire outside of a bus

How It Works:
The most familiar types of transit advertising are the signs placed on the interiors and exteriors of buses that carry your message to passengers and pedestrians alike. While the interior signs were once used primarily for PSA (public service announcement) messages because bus riders were thought to have little expendable cash, that's no longer the case. And although there are some advertisers who still think interior signs on a bus aren't good channels for reaching middle-income markets, today's park-and-ride programs are changing that perception. With a park-and-ride program, employees leave their cars in a parking lot and ride the bus to work. These programs are becoming much more popular as fuel costs remain at an all-time high, thus changing the demographic and image of the typical bus rider. So you'll find the same broad-based products and services advertised on the interior now as well as on exterior signs. In fact, you can purchase a combination of interior and exterior signs to increase the chances of having your ads seen.

If you're interested in exterior signage, you can purchase space on the front or back of a bus, or along the sides, where the largest exterior signs are found. Because so many different types of people see these signs, the expense of this form of advertising may not be worth it for you if your customer base is too narrow. But if you have a broad customer base, your message can reach thousands of people--especially if your design stands out.

The latest type of transit ads are called "bus wraps" and they're fun--they're like moving billboards and they're hard to miss. You may have seen them in your city: An entire bus is sort of "shrink wrapped" with an ad. This form of advertising can be pricey because you'll incur a hefty production cost for the wrapping--in addition to the monthly rental--and you generally have to sign on for a long-term run, which adds up especially if you're using more than one bus. But for those who can afford it, wrapping several buses is a sure way to make a major impact in your community.

When wrapping first appeared, it had to be done on the entire bus or else it couldn't be done. But now you can wrap just the front or back end of a bus, or even share the bus with another company. How? One business wraps the back and one side of the vehicle; the other wraps the front and the remaining side.

As with outdoor billboards, using bus wraps means you don't have to find your audience--it finds you! You don't have to worry about which radio stations people are listening to in their cars or which TV programs they'll watch when they get home--it just doesn't matter. When people are presented with a good transit design, they're going to pay attention to it.

Speaking of design, when it comes to creating your exterior signs, be sure to limit your message to the same eight to 10 words you'd use on an outdoor billboard. It's the same concept: People drive by the billboards--and buses drive by the people. It's all about movement. There's only so much time to read something in motion, so give your audience a break and make your message easy for them to read and understand at a glance. Making it big, bright, bold, and to the point will help get you the response you're looking for.

Buses travel everywhere--to malls, college campuses and the heart of all cities, to the suburbs, hospitals and through some residential neighborhoods, so your message will be seen by families, professionals, and people from all walks of life.

Here are a few additional tips when it comes to transit advertising:

  • Contact the transit company and ask if it's possible for your bus to run on certain routes, further enhancing your chances of reaching those college students, soccer moms or young professionals whose business you want.
  • If you're considering transit as a staple of your advertising, extend your coverage by placing your ad in the bus schedules themselves. Your local transit company can provide you with costs and deadlines.
  • Team up transit advertising with outdoor billboards for messages that remain stationary along highways and move along them at the same time!

Kathy Kobliski is the founder of Silent Partner Advertisingin Syracuse, New York. She is also the author of Advertising Without an Agency Made Easy.

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