The National Academies

TCRP B-33 [Final]

Practical Measures to Increase Transit Industry Advertising Revenues

  Project Data
Funds: $285,000
Research Agency: Denneen & Company, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Jane Alpers
Effective Date: 3/19/2007
Completion Date: 2/28/2009


Practical Measures to Increase Transit Advertising Revenues provides strategies to significantly increase transit's share of total advertising expenditures. The report describes advertising decision makers' perceptions about transit advertising products (current and future products) and includes a strategic responsive communications plan and recommendations to improve those perceptions and increase transit revenue. This report will be helpful to transit agencies, transit marketers, transit advertising sales organizations, media planners, media buyers, and advertisers.


Recent trends in the advertising industry have weakened traditional advertising media. Television advertising, in particular, which has long dominated national advertising sales, faces both media fragmentation due to a mushrooming spectrum of cable and satellite channels and commercial-skipping technologies such as TiVo. These trends tend to decrease the attractiveness of TV as a medium for advertisers. In this context, transit advertising stands out as one of the last truly affordable mass media. Advertisements on transit cannot be turned off, deleted, fast forwarded, or easily ignored.

            With more than 370,000 bus, 13,000 subway and rail, and 32,000 shelter and kiosk displays, transit advertising can deliver an advertiser's message on a local, regional, and national stage. Transit advertising can also be targeted geographically to allow for ad message customization along demographic and psychographic lines. Transit offers various advertising products that can target nearly any segment of metropolitan populations, including bus riders, train riders, and motorists and pedestrians (via advertising on the outside of transit vehicles and facilities). In addition, transit increasingly

uses new media and technologies that may offer additional opportunities for advertisers.

            Sale of advertising in public transit facilities and vehicles is a nearly $1 billion industry generating approximately $500 million annually to transit agencies. Yet transit advertising revenue was 0.4 % of total U.S. advertising expenditures in 2003. The other 99.6% of advertising revenues went to television, radio, billboards, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, and other media. Research was needed to understand the viewpoints of advertising decision makers and to identify ways to influence them to purchase more transit advertising.          


Under TCRP Project B-33, “Practical Measures to Increase Transit Industry Advertising Revenues,” Denneen  & Company conducted a comprehensive review of literature and information on the best practices within transit and other media-trade organizations related to boosting shares of national ad spending. The information gathered included a 10-year trend line of transit advertising revenues, comparing it to all media.


 The research team conducted interviews with media planners, advertisers, and advertising sales contractors to understand their familiarity with transit advertising, perceptions, and decision-making processes. Based on the information gathered, the team identified the best strategies for repositioning transit to significantly increase transit's share of total advertising expenditures.  Based on the research findings, the research team developed a strategic communications plan that addresses target audience; key messages; tactics; metrics; public relations; positioning; timing; sales tools; and strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis and may be used by transit agencies of all sizes.

Status:  The report was published as TCRP Report 133

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