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During the pandemic, bus ridership fell by more than half across the country. But while all public transportation took a big hit last year, buses have been quicker to rebound.

Nationwide, more people are riding buses than rail transportation, which wasn’t the case before the pandemic. In Washington, D.C., which adores its Metro subway system, bus ridership recently outpaced the Metro for the first time in recent memory.

Buses have several advantages over rails. First, you don’t have to go underground to ride them. Though vaccination levels are rising and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed masking guidelines for those who’ve gotten the shot, few people are lining up to stand in a crowd with strangers. (Just look at the slow rebound of movie theaters if you need proof.)

Second, buses often provide more room for spacing. They didn’t have as many riders before, and so even when people return, they aren’t packed in like sardines. That’s attractive at a time when we’re all still feeling a bit of “stranger danger.”

Best of all for advertisers, this means an excellent opportunity to get your message on a popular platform with a growing ridership. Bus advertising will be in demand for the remainder of 2021 and beyond. Here’s what you need to know about this unique format.

Bus Back
Bus Back

What Is Bus Advertising?

Bus advertising encompasses anything that appears on buses or the transit shelters or benches where passengers wait to catch the bus. It includes ads inside and outside the bus, such as bus kings and wraps.

What Types of Interior Bus Advertising Are Available?

Ads inside the bus generally are above the windows. Digital ads have also become popular on buses, with video screens available in many to convey advertising messages mixed with entertainment content.

Bus Bench
Bus Bench

What Types of Exterior Bus Advertising Are Available?

You can put your ad almost anywhere outside the bus, including wrapping it entirely. That costs more because of the immense size of the creative you have to produce. Other kinds of exterior bus advertising include:

  • Bus kings: Running on either side of the bus, this vinyl ad gets its name from its big size. It is usually 144 inches wide by 30 inches high.
  • Bus queens: Bus queens run on the curb side of the bus, which passengers in a bus shelter or on a bus bench see as the bus arrives. They’re the same height as kings but usually sized 88 inches long.
  • Bus backs: Applied across the rear of the bus, bus backs primarily are seen by the vehicles driving behind them.
  • Bus wraps: Bus wraps cover the entire bus, from bottom to top.

The smaller ads on buses are inexpensive to produce, allowing you to buy a lot of inventory for a smaller investment in creative. By placing them throughout a market, you can build recall and expand your reach. Messaging with seasonal or timely elements works well on buses because the ads are easy to change out and can be purchased in four-week flights, much like billboards.

Other Types of Bus Advertising

Transit shelters offer a unique way to get your message across, too. People who walk past the shelter or who wait for the bus see these ads, and the ads are also visible on the street to drivers. Some bus shelters have high dwell time, and hundreds of people can pass through during the day. Since many people use buses to commute to work, you can reach people who don’t necessarily live in the area, too, with messages for new albums or movies.

Not every bus stop has a shelter. Bus benches are excellent venues for advertising because everyone can see them — pedestrians, drivers and even people in nearby buildings. Advertisers have lots of fun possibilities for creative (expect the unexpected; our founder even proposed to his wife on a bus bench!).

Bus King
Bus King

Bus Advertising Cost

Prices vary between locations, of course, but in Los Angeles and New York, the minimum price starts between $10,000 and $15,000 for four weeks. For that, you get 100 to 150 buses carrying your message across town.

Purchasing ads on the back of the bus is cheaper than buying sides, for obvious reasons. In the back, only the traffic behind the bus sees the advertisement. When you buy a side, you get all the people who drive by in all the lanes next to you.

Bus Wrap Advertising Cost

Wraps have larger media space, and you pay for that real estate, but you usually only buy three to five of them — there’s a much lower minimum buy for wraps. Production can cost $2,000 to $3,000 for a single wrap, so you’re looking at $5,000 to $6,000 total.

Bus Queen
Bus Queen

Bus Shelter Advertising Cost

Bus shelters sit at street level, and it’s easier to track impressions than for a bus. They cost about $2,500 to $3,500 in New York City and a bit less in LA — $1,500 to $2,500. For that, you get 500 to 900 shelters, depending on the market where you buy.

Shelters usually have a minimum buy of 10, but you could do a single one in special cases. Some advertisers trick out a shelter in hopes of drawing media coverage. For instance, IKEA famously replaced the usual bus shelter “furniture” with furniture of its own, adding a nice couch, pillows and curtains from the store, inviting bus riders to sit in comfort.

But generally speaking, the more reach and frequency you have, the better off you’ll be. Bus advertising is different from some other forms of advertising in that way. Market saturation is the game.

What Are the Benefits of Bus Advertising?

One of the greatest advantages of bus advertising is that anything on the exterior of the bus is seen not only by bus passengers but also by other drivers and pedestrians. You enjoy a large audience when you invest in bus advertising.

Interior advertising’s advantage is the extended viewing time for passengers. They look at it while they ride the bus, and they have more time to absorb the message than they do for a typical bulletin billboard.

Do you still have questions about bus advertising? Let us walk you through them. Get in touch with DASH TWO to learn more about bus advertising that fits your needs.

3 Replies Added

  1. Hello,

    My name is Jasmine Pelaez and I work at 1 Hotel South Beach.

    I am interested in quotes for bus ads, bench ads, and possibly billboard ads as well.

    I look forward to hearing from you!


  2. How does bus advertising impact the experience of the riders? I/e, how much of the rider’s view is obscured by wrapping a bus? 50%? 80%?

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