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Adjusting to the “New Normal” of Transit Advertising

How the way we move has changed, and how advertising has to change with it

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JCDecaux Transit Shelter


Adjusting to the “New Normal”
of Transit Advertising

How the way we move has changed,
and how advertising has to change with it



by Will Farmer
Media and Communications Manager, OOH Today


With the recent lifts in COVID restrictions, advertisers are beginning to adjust to a “New Normal”. Key to this transition is transit advertising. The way people move is more dynamic than ever, and advertisers need to be just as dynamic in order to keep up. We spoke to Jeff White, CEO of Gravy Analytics, a company that focuses on location-based analytics. Jeff discussed how consumers are changing the way they move, as well as the importance of ‘location intelligence’ for advertisers. Here’s what he had to say:

Jeff White

Discussion with Jeff White,
CEO of Gravy Analytics




Will Farmer: How has the way people move changed since the beginning of the pandemic?

Jeff White: The past year has seen a huge shift in the way people move in the real world. While only time will tell which changes will be permanent and which were more temporary adjustments to COVID-19, it’s clear that a “new normal” will be forged. At the onset of the pandemic, stay-at-home orders meant that the way people moved ground to a halt in most instances. As the situation has progressed and vaccination efforts are making Americans more comfortable with venturing out, we’ve seen different categories regain foot traffic at varying rates, and it’s easy to see why some are recovering faster than others.

consumers have shifted from Buses (-57%), Trains (-51%),
Public Parking (-23%) and Rental Cars (-27%)

For example, when we look at data for the Transportation category over the past 12 months, consumers have shifted from Buses (-57%), Trains (-51%), Public Parking (-23%) and Rental Cars (-27%) as more consumers avoid public transportation in favor of private vehicles.

While many consumers have become more comfortable with leaving home, we are seeing a shift to options in every category that are less populated and offer more outdoor experiences as we enter the second (and hopefully last) year of this pandemic.

WF: What will the ‘new normal’ look like, as far as consumer behavior, traveling habits, and congregation points?

JW: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about where we live and how we move around in the world. According to the National Association of Realtors, 8.9 million people moved between the start of the pandemic and October 2020. That’s 8.9 million people whose entire lives have changed along with their tastes and priorities. With many major companies switching to a hybrid workforce, there has been a great migration into the suburbs, which comes with a host of subtle lifestyle differences and shifts in the businesses we frequent.

We are also seeing a shift in travel behavior as more travelers stay closer to home to avoid airports and train stations. Travelers are also opting for more outdoorsy locations and activities, in destinations that are likely to have fewer people and less strict health guidelines.

Where we go is who we are,

WF: How do these changes affect the way advertisers understand their audience?

JW: These changes in human behavior are essential for OOH advertisers to understand to make the most of their ad spend moving forward. In the past, out-of-home advertising used to be “downtown is heavily populated, let’s put a billboard or a bus stop advertisement there!” With people moving to the suburbs in droves and travelers opting for the outdoors over busy city centers, advertisers need to understand not just where their audiences are, but why. Where we go is who we are, and understanding who the target market really is will be essential to serving ads that convert to sales in this new normal.

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WF: What data will DOOH advertisers need to rely on with the recent shift in COVID restrictions?

JW: Data-driven advertising is the best way forward, especially when so many of us are doing the best that we can to guess what consumers want in this changing economy. As advertisers hone in on what data they will need, it will be important to get a clear view of both the audience they are targeting, as well as the areas they are considering.

In order to get that insight into new consumer norms, historic purchase data just won’t be enough to accurately profile and target the right audience. Advertisers will also need real-time data that reflects consumers’ new interests and habits.

Consumer movement data –analyzed and distilled into location intelligence– is built on verified consumer insights from mobility data to maximize visibility into what a target audience wants or needs. Not only do you get a high-level view of what consumers in the area are interested in, but also where they spend most of their time based on foot traffic patterns.

WF: Please discuss the concept of location intelligence.

JW: Location intelligence is built on consumer insights derived from verified mobility data, allowing you to gain a better understanding of who your target audience should be, what they desire, who they are, and how they respond. The analysis uses data built on aggregated, pseudonymous mobile location signals to both measure consumer activity at a certain place or event, and to determine whether or not they are the right audience for you.

Advertising based on location intelligence can give you a complete real-world view of your customer and the impact of your advertising. With location intelligence, you can gauge where your target audience is likely to be, how many impressions your ad received (and who saw it), and you can even attribute in-store purchases to the ad and its location. It can give you a near real-time head start in knowing where to place ads for maximum visibility and how to adjust ad messaging to resonate with your audience.


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