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Advertising on Buses and Trains

A bugbear of mine is moving billboard type advertising on the sides of buses and trains like the examples below.

Advertising - Bus

Advertising - Train

It primarily annoys me due to the fact it impedes the view of those on services which can make it quite hard for passengers to see exactly where they are, especially at night. But it also goes the other way, being able to see into and through a bus or train is an important part in passengers being able to see the service is safe to board and use – although that also isn’t helped by bus windows often having an unnecessarily dark tint on them.

Now I realise that it’s a bit harder to do something about the bus advertising due to the way the buses are currently run in the city – although I hope it is something that AT can hopefully address as part of the contracts for the new network. What I’m more concerned about the advertising on the trains as that is something AT have within their control and further the ads aren’t for a private company but for AT themselves. I’m also concerned as the ads are targeted towards getting people to try using PT when the vast majority of people who will see them are people who are using trains anyway. The train advertising above is currently on 8 carriages across the train fleet and each one costs about $1,000.

So I asked Auckland Transport about the advertising on trains and in particular what will happen once we have an entire electric fleet. The answer gives me hope we they are moving towards a more customer centric view. Importantly they have said that the electric trains will be clean, in other words there will be no advertising allowed on them (other than the giant AT symbol on the middle carriage of course). That is a very pleasing to hear and hopefully means the trains will stay nice and clean

EMU Southern Motorway

Photo by Alex Burgess of one of the few places non train users might regularly see a train

On the inside AT say that there will be some dedicated public information spots on the walls inside the trains for displaying information like timetable/service changes etc. but that they won’t be used for general marketing. In saying that they are looking at the idea of on-board digital marketing which would essentially be TV screens mounted to the roof of the carriages that would display ads however that is still only in early stages of investigation.

Overall I think this is the right approach to take. It keeps the electric trains looking good while based on what I’ve seen overseas small digital screens displaying ads are unobtrusive and can easily be ignored. I just hope that as part of AT’s focus to improve the customer experience they get tough with bus companies who want to wrap buses like has been done in the first image.

29 comments to Advertising on Buses and Trains

  • Christopher T

    Absolutely agree. It has always struck me as being counter-intuitive that the Link buses, the ones that carry significant numbers of tourists, have their views obscured by the egregious decals. Short-term greed but, I guess, entirely typical of the prevailing attitude in this country that buses are merely profit opportunities not public services.

  • Nigel

    That MetroLink bus has to be one of the worst I’ve seen, something I’ve said in the past to a couple of friendly/regular Ritchies drivers (when they had zero advertising on nearly all of the fleet – some Swanson buses had North Harbour Rugby ads on the back) “I like the fact that I don’t feel like I’m sitting in a moving billboard”.

    For me, the advertising-on-glass method actually causes problems, due to the very ‘dotted’ view through the window when you are close to it (i.e. sitting down), I find them to be headache/migraine inducing, my honest guess – because it’s so damn hard to focus on anything! Westfield who were the original offender of using this advertising method commits the crime the worst, putting it on their entrances/automatic doors, one layer of ad-on-glass works, but one moving behind another, that is a pretty annoying thing.

    Trains seem to be okay with the AT logo as it’s only the very centre of the middle carriage, but I actually have a problem with the NEX buses, the AT logo covers a good proportion of the back half of the bus windows (which for other reasons, happens to be my preferred seating area), there is iirc only 2 rows of rear setting that doesn’t get an obstructed view.

    • Ran Derson

      I feel motion sickness riding the ADL Enviro buses at night – the dark tint and advertising means you can’t see outside.

      Just one of the many reasons we don’t like those buses.

      • BBC

        At nights and when it rains, usually can’t wait to get off the bus because of how sick I end up feeling. Equally worse were the audible ads NZ Bus starting playing on the TV screens in the Links last year. Forcing people in the bus to be subjected to loud and annoying ads actually massively detracts from the attractiveness of using the bus and is quite insulting to passengers. Considering the Links are a tendered service (?) it appears AT are actually happy with the full side ads blocking the windows and playing TV commercials with the volume on high inside.

      • mfwic

        I get exactly the same. I find it bad enough getting thrown around on a regular bus but when you cant see out it is intolerable. I then waste 30-60 minutes sitting still at home recovering and promising myself to stick with the car.

  • Morgan

    I think this is the worst offender in NZ: https://www.interislander.co.nz/Files/Features/Shuttle-Bus-2009.jpg
    Very weird to be onboard, they have started to remove some of them (probably for emergency escape reasons).

  • Barney

    The fact that it is a portable hoarding doesn’t worry me but it can & does impede the passengers view to the outside.
    The ever growing problem of on board train security (and the reason I don’t travel on trains at night) needs to be addressed by the police and AT Security and not by passengers just peering through partially obscured windows. Surely this is what the police are for and not just collecting traffic fines.

  • The difficulty seeing out is a big problem, I’ve been on the same route for 10 years and I have to look hard outside when I’m in some buses.

    The big things I want to avoid are playing sound in the bus for music, radio or ads. It just lowers the tone of the whole experience and is not friendly to passengers at all.

    I’ve also noticed that the printed ads and notices inside the buses are often out of date. I’d even go as far as to say that 90% of the time if they are advertising transport options for an event then the event will be in the past. I’ve even seen ads for the RWC just a couple of months ago (on ceiling of an older bus).

    • Simon, I’d get another job somewhere else. Obviously if you haven’t been able to save up for a car in the last 10 years that job is taking you nowhere.

      • conan

        You know that Simon’s had 3 jobs in that time, they’ve just all been in the same general place. Ever since he sold the last company to Google for $453m he really only goes in the office to check how his investments are performing, which he actually gets out of the way on the bus, hence his desire for a bit of peace and quiet on the bus.

        Yep, bus users are just losers who can’t afford a car.

      • Elliot. I live on Dominion Road. The bus stop is 10 metres from my place and during rush-hour a bus comes every 5 minutes. I get on the bus, read stuff on my phone for 25 minutes and then walk 5 minutes to my job in the CBD. The reverse procedure coming home.

        The car gets a moderate amount of use at other times but I prefer an extra 50 minutes per day reading to spending that time driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

        I can easily afford to drive to work (although sadly I’m not quite as rich as Conan suggest) but I don’t see how my lifestyle would be improved if I did so.

  • Completely agree and I’ve said as much on more than one occasion to AT (via email and surveys). Buses are particularly bad. The only ‘information’ should be about the route. I even suggested all buses use the same livery but that might be going a bit too far.

  • Ari

    If lots of ads means lower fares, then I fully support it. If it means more profits for private companies, then not so much.

  • Harvey Specter

    I note that the NEX service is painted in AT colours, with AT advertising. I wonder it this is just a one off or whether this is the future and was the start of new contracts being rolled out (given it is new service compared to a lot of the existing services which have been rolled over for a long period of time).

    • Nigel

      I believe the NEX is a special case as it was commissioned by AT as part of a “We want to launch a service called the Northern Express to these rules, who wants to operate it?” model, the only branding Ritchies get out of it is the “This service is operated by Ritchies” on the interior and occasionally when they need to bring in an unbranded cover bus.

      The 380(?) Airporter seems to be run under a similar model as they have the AT-specific branded buses (but orange), it’s basically a ‘showcase route’.

      • Harvey Specter

        That is my understanding too but with all contracts being negotiated over the next few years, I wonder if this will become standard.

  • Paul in Sydney

    I support on-board advertising as a revenue stream, every little bit helps. I also agree… I don’t like sitting behind the perforated window substraight either. Everything in moderation

  • Stevenz

    And they’re just plain butt ugly. Auckland has so little sign control now it’s really overdoing it to add more huge moving signs, and not just in commercial areas.

  • Warren S

    Advertising or any form of obscuring matter over windows is absolutely unacceptable.

  • harrymc

    I think Brian Rudman brought this up quite some time ago. I agree it is awful.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10884671

    He’s pretty hot on the buses is Brian; good on him!

  • It’s no different to graffiti. (Which I love) But it’s way uglier.

  • Rob Mayo

    In other cities around the world where bus systems are well established with continuing high patronage, full bus ad wraps work – they bring in revenue and dont negatively impact service usage. Full bus wrap advertising in Auckland however is being used well before its time – service patronage levels are nowhere near the levels high enough to justify this type of OOH Advertising. Its no wonder therefore that bus wraps in Auckland do not achieve the same levels of ad campaign response rate that similar sized cities with higher levels of bus patronage enjoy.

    AT need to stop the use of full / side wraps on buses under the new PTOM contracts so that bus interiors in Auckland for the next 3-5 years at least, can be clearly seen from the outside. Clearly visible interiors encourage those not normally using buses, to ‘see’ that taking the bus is in fact a viable and attractive alternative to using the car – on weekdays as well as on weekends. To quote that old adage, – “Seeing is Believing”. Remove bus ad wraps as part of the new PTOM contracts and once service patronage is at a high enough level, reintroduce them.

    For rail, full train wraps are the only effective wrap type and appropriate only when the wrap contains a simple message promoting train service use or when the wrap is effectively a moving piece of artwork. Full wraps are at their most effective when applied to just 2-3 trains in an entire fleet – they become a feature, people look out for them and quite often, passengers will choose a wrapped train to ride on – it is considered as being an experience to ride, especially on those wrapped trains where the interior is similarly themed. Partial train wraps in my experience, are not an effective marcomm spend, especially for rail service promotional use.

  • RJ Yap

    I actually dont see it as problem. In other countries especially Asian countries advertising is common. You should see the inside of some Japanese trains they have advertisements inside them at almost if not every door way when you enter the train

    • Rob Mayo

      The Japanese ‘nakatsuri’ (中吊広告) roof-hang ads plus the doorside ads work because of the well developed patronised rail systems. Nakatsuri plus door ads became an established form of advertising in the early 1980s after some 25 years of continued rail patronage growth in metropolitan areas. Auckland is not at that stage of well-developed rail patronage yet.

      I know for a fact that advertisers in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing still struggle to make train interior print ads pay. I understand Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok offset the losses incurred from train interior ads with station platform billboards and station wall poster frames – often offering advertisers all three types in a single package. Train interior ads in Asian cities other than those in Japan and Korea, continue to run at a loss and rail operators there are moving to digital signage in an effort to improve revenue. That said, the content quality and placement of digital signage in Asian countries other than Japan and Korea, is not well thought-through in my opinion as its been deployed very much with a ‘me too’ mindset.

  • Glen

    I’m on the fence about bus ads, but a few full train wraps that Rob discusses are a good idea.

    But so much negativity! Let’s face it – revenue is critical. There are plenty of worthy PT projects waiting for funding, and revenue from ads can help with that. The question is how to make sure there is no collateral damage to the passenger experience or putting off potential passengers.

    • There’s no revenue from the train ones, they are advertising from AT so is something that costs us to do.

      • Glen

        If the revenue goes to the operator, can that be renegotiated in the next contract renewal round?

        In other words, if AT could show that the advertising revenue goes to service improvements, could that make adverts more acceptable? Just a thought.

      • Rob Mayo

        As far as I can ascertain, AT do not undertake any ROI review of their train wrap and train interior service promotion advertising. Such assessment would improve the effectiveness of their marcomm spend there in my opinion.

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