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Why You Should Avoid Subway Ads

The New York City subway is among the top ten busiest in the world. As such, it offers a massive opportunity for advertisers to build brand awareness for businesses. However, subway ads are unable to match the ROI that advertisers expect. This article highlights the challenges the medium faces.

Impressions do not translate to direct actions

The most significant selling point for subway ads is that they generate millions of impressions annually. Notably, the argument is that many people, especially in North America and Asia, use metros as the primary means of mobility. 3,730 million passengers passed through the 1,270 metro stations in North America in 2017. Worldwide, an average of 168 million people use metros annually, making it a potent platform for advertisers.
Unfortunately, the metros are good for impressions but not poor when it comes to conversion rates. Of the millions of passengers that use the New York City subway yearly, over 50% see the ads placed at different places in the subway. However, many of these people are in too much of a hurry to take time to engage with the messages.  Further, the majority of subway users swipe at their phones while at the station. The resulting inattention implies that few people notice the subway ads that dot the stations. Ultimately, investment in the medium is loss-making.


Subway ads are annoying

A lot of train passengers hate subway ads. In 2018, an article appeared in the New York Magazine castigating ad companies that bought up space to ‘throw ads’ in the face of passengers. According to the author, the advertising spaces had initially been taken up by the Poetry Society of America, which posted creative pieces by diverse poets. The poems occupied the places where ads would be placed. However, an insurance company had ‘stolen’ the idea and posted ads at various points in the New York City subway station.
From the article, it is apparent that few people, if any, have an interest in subway ads. Psychologically speaking, the target audience might begin to develop a certain kind of hate against the advertisers whose messages appear on the ads. As such, this might work against the business, quite the opposite of your intention. Therefore, it is a double loss for a company when the ad not only fails to generate brand engagement but also gobbles up ad spend for nothing.
Clearly, opting for the subway as a means of advertising is a futile venture. However, advertisers have the option of using practical avenues like coffee sleeves. Coffee sleeve advertising is a form of in-the-hand advertising where advertisers deliver the message directly into the individuals’ hands. Oftentimes, travelers buy coffee to drink on the train. As such, advertisers that print their ads on coffee sleeves will attract more attention. For the entire period of the journey, the traveler will be looking at your brand on the coffee cup. Besides, other passengers will notice the ad, and hence more brand visibility.