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Disadvantages of Subway Ads

Subway Ads: Should I try this tactic?

The ridership for US public transport increased for the first time in late 2019, according to the National Transit Database. Particularly, this implies that many people are using the subway and buses more since 2014. Also, this means that marketers that use subway ads could begin to witness high impression rates. Admittedly, many people will see the ads but one cannot say with confidence that that will increase brand engagement.

Why are subway ads ineffective?

Indeed, outdoor advertising mediums are popular and many businesses use them in marketing campaigns. However, all of these mediums have fundamental problems concerning tracking of impact and audience targeting. Specifically, passengers in transit do not have much time to read through long messages or to watch long videos. As such, advertising agencies limit the length of messages to a few sentences. This, however, limits the impact of the message.
On the other hand, the ROI tracking of subway ads is problematic. Oftentimes, the gross impressions obtained from the ads is huge but the correlation to conversions is disappointing. There is no technique advertisers can use to test the market to tie conversion to the gross impressions.
Important to note, passengers in transit are often in a hurry either to reach the office or at home. While at it, they may be swiping at their smartphones or enjoying a favorite book. Consequently, few people actually pay attention to the ads donning the walls and other items in the subway.
Inattention, lack of ROI tracking, and unconvincing impact of subway ads are more critical after consideration of their costs. Usually, ad agencies use posters, static and digital billboards, and pieces of art to display ads in subways. All these, especially the digital billboards are very expensive to produce. Indeed, a digital billboard anywhere, including in subways, could cost up to $20,000 per month.

Traditional OOH: costs of billboards

Costs of billboards depends on format, circulation, demographics, and impressions. Traditional billboards cost $14,000-20,000/month in larger markets. It takes a considerable time, energy and money to advertise with billboards. On the top, most billboard companies require advertisers to close long-term contracts. If your campaign strategy requires flexibility and multiple messages delivered at specific times, billboards are not the right media.
The key in advertising is to be able to track number of impressions. Billboards demonstrate a lack of targeting and tracking and very often a low engagement with the target audience, high costs, low ROI and in many cases they cause visual pollution and low brand recall. The targeting issues very often are addressed with alternative approaches as mobile billboards, digital OOH, ads on trucks and ads in places people don’t expect as flags, backpacks, inflatable objects, gas pump and balloons.

Door Hanger Marketing can be an better option

Fortuitously, advertisers can fall back on in-the-hand marketing, which is cheaper and simpler. This marketing technique, as the name suggests, puts your ad in the hands of the target audience. Consider an advertiser that uses a door hanger to market its brand. Usually, door hangers are the first thing an individual would see when reaching for the doorknob. Further, the sight of the item on the doorknob jolts the individual because he/she did not put it there. This element of surprise is what catches the full attention of the audience. Ultimately, conversion rates for in-the-hand marketing are unrivaled.

Example of Ads that can be placed on household doors


Running an ad campaign using door hangers is just as simple as it sounds. The advertiser prints the logo of the business and the accompanying message on the door hanger. The size of the hangers ensures that there is enough space for a reasonable message length. Next, the advertiser selects the households that the business wants to reach. On the doorknob of each of the target households, the advertiser hangs the printed door hangers.
These guerrilla tactics ensure that the message reaches the exact target audience based on the profile the business develops. Notably, this kind of segmentation makes it possible to get the most accurate ad spend versus revenues insights. Companies can use this technique to deliver surprise coupons to the target audience. Eventually, the business can grow its revenues faster than ever before.

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