Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

Unforgettable Bus Stop Advertisements That Catch Consumers’ Attention

The world of advertising has a lot of hoops that need to be dealt with and jumped through on a daily basis. DVRs allow consumers to fast forward though commercials and satellite radios keep people’s music playing and advertisements away. That means it’s do or die time for advertisers to attract attention from consumers!

Instead of sitting back and waiting for customers to discover their brand, some advertisers are getting creative to make people want to learn more. Ergo, bus shelter advertising (or transit shelter ads) has been popping up worldwide.

Ikea bus stop

Ikea bus stop

This bus shelter ad is doing exactly what it’s intended to do: attract attention. A large number of consumers see bus stops on a daily basis commuting to and from work, going out to dinner, or even just shopping on a Saturday afternoon. Why not capture their attention and expose your brand into markets you maybe haven’t been advertising to in the past? The popular Swedish home-furnishing store IKEA designed this transit shelter display to show customers how liveable their furniture is. And let’s face it, bus shelters aren’t exactly known for their comfort or home-like feeling!

Pixar's Up bus stop

Pixar’s Up bus stop

Since I know we have a few Pixar fanatics at Quality Logo Products®, I couldn’t leave this one off the list. Typical movie posters get a quick glance and that’s it; however, this one really gets the consumer to stop and look at it. If you’ve seen Pixar’s Up then you know how imperative balloons are to the plot, but if you haven’t then you would wonder why the little boy scout is holding a bunch of balloons. Ta-da, brand exposure!

Coke bus stop

Coke bus stop

When Coca-Cola came out with a new grip bottle that makes it easier to hold, they needed a way to bring awareness to the change. But how do you advertise something that’s 3-dimensional on a 2-dimensional surface? Well, the Marcel advertising agency in France used posters that were printed on Velcro and placed them in bus shelters around Paris. Bystanders couldn’t help but literally be ‘hooked’ into checking out the advertisement. A 3.8% brand volume growth was seen in France compared to 2007, so the results were a success! Très bien!

McDonald's bus stop

McDonald’s bus stop

To give a visual representation of a McDonald’s offer for free coffee, they filled up a container with their coffee beans. Every day, more beans would be taken out (no information about whether or not the beans were used in making the coffee) until when the promotion ended and the beans were gone. Customers saw a new ad every day that reminded them that they’d better hurry and grab a free cup of coffee before the beans ran out! This gem was created by a Canadian ad agency called Cossette West.

Caribou Coffee bus stop

Caribou Coffee bus stop

Despite my loyal allegiance to Dunkin’ Donuts, my favorite bus shelter ad goes to Caribou Coffee. This advertisement was created by Colle+McVoy and was seen in Minneapolis. To celebrate Caribou Coffee’s new line of breakfast sandwiches, this bus shelter comes complete with a heating element to get customers right up close with the new product. Since the average winter temps for Minneapolis are between 2 and 37 degrees (Fahrenheit), this was an excellent way to immerse customers into their brand.

These bus shelter advertisements prove that the sky’s the limit in ways of attracting consumers’ attention. Before you jump on this trend, though, here are few things to consider:

  • Choose wisely. The location of the bus shelter you choose is a huge factor for success. You can kiss ROI goodbye if you pick one on a quiet, deserted street with low traffic.
  • Be as creative as possible. Anyone can advertise in a bus shelter and blow the typical ad out of the water, so you’ll have to come up with unique and creative ideas. It’ll create more buzz and word of mouth advertising than just a larger version of your print advertisement in magazines and newspapers.
  • Interaction is key. The more interaction you incorporate with your ad, the better. These examples demonstrate that a higher level of interaction from customers will lead to higher rate of retention from them.

Even though bus shelter advertising is more expensive compared to other forms of advertising, the results may be well worth the investment if you can afford it.

Was there one example you liked better than the others? If so, what did you like about it? Have you ever come across a fun bus shelter? Sound off below!

These images and more can be found at Bored Panda.


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  1. JPorretto

    What a great post Amy! I love advertising that is creative, artistic, or interactive. And these are all 3!

    I feel like we need a bus stop advertisement with a stressball bench to sit on. Yeeeaahhh that’s the ticket.

    • Amy Swanson

      I agree! A stressball bench would certainly be nice and comfy to sit on while you’re waiting for the bus to show up 🙂

      • Amanda

        Sweet idea Jeff! It would be so cushiony–people would love it! =)

  2. Mandy Kilinskis

    D’awww, Russell the small mailman! If Pixar didn’t already have my loyalty for life, that advertisement would’ve made me find out more about that movie.

    I have to say, I think the IKEA one is my favorite. I would love waiting for the bus on a bench that’s practically a couch/might actually be a couch (I can’t really tell from the picture). The Coke ad would just make me angry. Imagine if you were dashing to catch a bus and got caught on that sign?! Just one more reason to take Le Métro!

    • Amy Swanson

      The IKEA one is really clever, and yes that is an actual couch used for the bench 🙂 As long as I wasn’t wearing a fancy coat that would snag on the Velcro I would no problem with the Coke ad. However, if I were I’d be pretty pissed and would probably vow to never buy the product every again.

  3. Kyle

    That Caribou Coffee bus stop is BOSS!

    Just looking at it is making me hungry. I couldn’t imagine having to stand there waiting for my bus.

    And that Coke one deserves a thumbs up too, if only for the reaction someone must have when an advertisement literally “grabs” their attention.

    Great post, Amy! I’ve seen some creative advertisements, but I never realized they went all out with bus stops too. All of these were top-notch picks.

    • Amy Swanson

      Thanks Kyle 🙂

      A friend emailed me the Caribou Coffee one earlier this year in January and it’s stuck with me all this time. I couldn’t imagine not including it in this post LOL.

  4. Eric

    Really cool article, Amy.

    As a former Chicagoan, I know my bus stops. Most of which are places you’d rather not stand around, much less in. These ones managed to change my perception.

    Love “UP.” Also love how clever those Pixar folks are. Speaking of…+ 5 for use of my favorite Disney and/or Pixar animated feature in a post. That was probably the least expensive advertising we see among your examples, at the cost of a poster and some cleverly-placed balloons.

    IKEA’s makes for a nice print ad if someone were to take a picture of it, but the first rain or snowstorm to come along is going to make sitting on that couch a less-than stellar experience.

    They didn’t quite think through to making it organic with the experience of waiting outside for a bus. If your advertising becomes “weather permitting,” you may need another approach. Points to them for being interactive in a positive way, however.

    Interaction is probably the strongest thing going for these advertisements, not only in terms of those directly interacting with them, but the friends, family, and co-workers those people will share their experience with, and more likely than not, have even more people come to visit the advertisement.

    Which brings me to Coca-Cola. I’ve never heard of anyone literally using velcro as human-flypaper. I’m sure it had to be funny for those who were already “in” on the ad, and watched helpless passerby get sucked in like the Millennium Falcon to the Death Star. I think, though, after my wool coat had blown into it for the 3,423,478,234,343rd time, I’d probably be annoyed as hell with the ad, or would use it as a new place to put old fabric softener sheets from the dryer. One of the two.

    McDonald’s? Well, they created an ad that literally disappears over time. It’s great the first day, or week, but over time, it’d be like white-washing over a billboard.

    I agree, and the win goes to Caribou Coffee. The design itself is whimsical, inviting, and though you know there aren’t such things as life-sized breakfast sandwiches, you’re drawn in (probably hoping for some foot-tall breakfast). That by itself is reason enough, but what really does it for me is the fact they were mindful of where there advertisement is, not only in one of the coldest places in the nation, but moreover, a bus stop in one of the coldest places in the nation. Thus, making the heating element functional?

    You’re drawing in business and customers, if for no other reason, than the fact cold people like to warm-up, especially while stuck waiting for a bus. The design succeeds, there is room for interaction, and their audience even gets a little something positive out of the experience (free heat!!!).

    Coming from a guy who spent years in Chicago waiting for a bus or train during the winter? I really wish Caribou would do more breakfast-centered advertising here!

    Alright. My response is erring on being longer than your entry. In summary: cool stuff, and glad you decided to write about them. Never would’ve known about them otherwise!

    • Amy Swanson

      Oh sweet Jesus, this is an awesome comment. Wow! You’ve made so many great points I really don’t know where to start.

      ::Deep Breathe::

      I had never thought about IKEA’s bus stop during bad weather, but you are 100% correct. I certainly wouldn’t want to sit on a soggy sofa, yuck 🙁
      Your “human-flypaper” comment about Coke’s ad had me cracking up. That’s exactly what it is. Good call! Using the ‘Up’ example, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on one advertisement. Plus, they could’ve done some awesome guerilla marketing and strategically placed balloons all over the city on benches, other bus stops, tree trunks, etc. More places = more brand impressions.

      Thanks again for this awesome comment Eric, you rock!!

  5. Eric

    Thanks! Come to think of it: IKEA probably did that ad as a 1-day kinda deal. In the city, if you come across a piece of furniture on and/or around the street curb, your natural reaction is, “Hey. Free sofa.” Though I do laugh thinking about the awkward moment where the attempting thief is asked, “Hey! What’re you doing with the bus stop?!?!”

    • amy

      The image of watching someone actually do that is hilarious!! Or if on day 1 the bus stop is all decked out as the advertisers wanted it and by day 2 the only thing left is part of the white curtains (which are now dirty) LOL So… there may be a few kinks to work out.

  6. Jen

    Nice post Amy! I didn’t know these bus stops existed. They are all very cool and genius. My favorite is the Caribou Coffee bus stop, it made me hungry and I love that it is heated. I would pretend to be a bun in the oven (not to be confused with have a bun in the oven). LOL!

    • amy

      Hahahaha, thank you for the clarification Jen 😉 That Caribou Coffee bus stop blew me away too, you certainly wouldn’t see that everyday.

  7. Jill Tooley

    It’s about time bus stops got creative! NOT doing anything with them seems like such a waste, seeing as how hundreds (if not thousands) of people walk by and look at them every single day. These are some insanely innovative advertisements, that’s for sure. The interactive ones are my favorites because they allow people to do more than just read some print; it means they have to do a bit of sleuthing to find a message. This seems like a great brand name retention tool!

    Awesome selection of ads! 🙂

    • amy

      Thanks Jill 🙂

      I don’t know what the procedure is for advertising on a bus stop (if there’s a lot of red tape or hoops to jump through) but they’re great to reach people with. Even if someone doesn’t use that particular bus stop on their commute, they could still see it when they drive by on the bus. I think they make for a great brand name retention tool too!

  8. Joseph Giorgi

    You’re totally right — “interaction is key.”

    And as far as interaction goes, I’d say Coke takes the cake when it comes to bus stop ads. I mean, Velcro? That’s a pretty genius move! Ikea’s approach is creative as well, though personally I’m not sure how willing I’d be to sit on a ‘public couch.’

    Great post, Amy! 🙂

    • amy

      If (my inner cynic is coming out) IF that couch was still there after a few days I can’t imagine it’d be in the best shape. I wouldn’t mind sitting on it day 1, but a week later I would give it major second thoughts. Ewww.

      The way the Coca-cola ad brings something that’s a new feature about the bottle to life makes it so cool! I can honestly say I would’ve never thought to do that in a million years. LOL. Thanks Joe 🙂

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