Why the Tube is an ad platform unlike any other
Research shows consumers’ unique interactions with advertising on London Underground, with commuters seeking out ads as a distraction from their journey, says Exterion Media research manager Nicola Barrett.
London Underground is a unique environment. Despite being the oldest underground railway system in the world, London’s historic transport infrastructure remains both iconic and innovative to this day.
With nearly five million passenger journeys made daily on this bustling network, consumers interactions with advertising in this setting must also be viewed in a different way from other marketing channels. Until recently, not much was known about how passengers travelling through the network engaged with their surroundings from moment to moment. But Exterion Media’s neuroscience study conducted earlier this year, called The Engagement Zone, has shed light on how consumers respond to ads in this environment.
The Engagement Zone study combined eye tracking, skin conductance response (measuring cognitive activity) and survey data to understand how commuters engage with advertising across the Underground.
More than 100 participants were observed over a two-week period as they travelled through the Tube network, with their physical responses measured at every moment. This recorded data was further examined with follow up in-depth interviews, which explored participants’ conscious attitudes and behaviours towards advertising. The findings were quantified using an attitudinal and implicit testing online study which had 1,000 responses.
The study demonstrated huge levels of positive engagement with advertising on the Underground, from traditional posters to digital displays. Interestingly, travellers were motivated to engage with advertising for its own sake, regardless of whether the product category was immediately relevant to them.
Almost all travellers surveyed were favourable to ads on the Underground, with the majority finding them a welcome distraction while travelling. Further to this, commuters were found to actively seek out advertising on the Tube, with three out of five noticing when new ads appeared on their regular journeys.
The evidence suggests that commuters’ minds are active and alert during the daily commute, attributes that directly translate to engagement with the advertising environment. Even those who choose to occupy themselves by other means while on their journeys were also found to dabble in ad spotting.
Commuters were found to actively seek out advertising on the Tube, with three out of five noticing when new ads appeared
The study revealed that 58% of people who regularly read or use their phone while travelling also regularly look at advertising on the Tube. Of those using a mobile device, a third have used their device to take notes about information they see in ads.
High engagement levels with advertising on the Underground were found to match that of TV advertising (16%) and far surpass that of online video (9%), with the consensus from London Underground users that advertising on the Tube is far less intrusive than other forms of advertising. In fact, four in five people who stated that they did not like ads on social media or TV said they did, in fact, like ads on the Underground.
Unique opportunity for brands
The study, which last week won best research initiative at the Media Research Group awards, offers Exterion Media a fresh insight on how Londoners engage with the advertising environment around them. Advertisers can use this understanding of the London audience along with additional behaviour and demographic data to optimise their creative message and produce effective campaigns.
The Underground is a truly unique platform for brands to engage with consumers. It not only offers dynamic, data-driven opportunities for brands to appear on a world-class media estate, but also provides unprecedented access to the influential London audience that is alert, engaged and receptive to advertising.
Ben Fox, head of media and customer engagement at McDonald’s:
“McDonald’s holding on Exterion Media’s London Underground formats plays a very important role in our communications strategy. It’s a really efficient way of us reaching a London audience that can be very hard to reach on some of our traditional broadcast channels – as London has notoriously lighter viewers of TV. It enables us to connect with not just London but with the huge percentage that flows through London on a yearly basis.
Advertising on London Underground is hugely important as it helps us to maintain saliency and engagement in an impulse driven category. The wealth of data that Exterion Media holds allows us to understand the different commuters passing through the network and enables us to serve our customers with messages that are appealing, relevant and drive positive engagement with our brand.”