Bus-Exterior Advertising in Brazil

Rapid urbanization means that a huge number of people now inhabit small areas.  If ten million people live in a city and they all operate their own automobiles, the streets would become just one gigantic parking lot with no one going anywhere.  Therefore, good urban planning should encourage the use of public transportation as much as possible.  Of course, public transportation has to be made appealing for the general public, of which the aspects of cost, convenience, comfort and safety are the most important.  

To make public transportation convenient, comfortable and safe means the investment of money.  If these investments were expected to be totally recouped by passenger fares, these systems may be cost-prohibitive to consumers.  Therefore, very often, such systems are subsidized by the government in the form of direct aid or tax relief.  Another way of subsidizing public transportation is to sell advertising space on bus/train/trolley exteriors and interiors, stops, stations and terminals.  In this note, we will concentrate on bus-exterior advertising.

For advertisers, there are many advantages for bus-exterior advertising, including the fact that target group can be geographically based as determined by certain bus routes.  For a local advertiser, this avoids the huge wastage involved in broadcast media.  The ad exposure may also trigger an immediate sale (e.g. to stop to get gasoline refill or refreshments) at a moment when no other media are present.

We will now cite some survey data from the TGI Brasil study.  This is a survey of 10,624 persons between the ages of 12 to 64 years old who were interviewed during 2001 in Brazil.  According to this survey, 33.8% of the survey respondents recalled that they have seen a painted bus exterior ad during the past 7 days.

One of the drawbacks of transportation-based advertising is that it is impossible to target a specific group.  As a result, the ads may end up reaching a large number of people who are not prospects for the advertised product or service.  For example, if the advertisement is for a gasoline brand, it may have an impact on drivers who see that ad, but it will have no value for all the pedestrians or public transport commuters who do not use automobiles.  Now the same can be said of telenovelas as advertising vehicles for laundry detergents, as there are presumably telenovela audience members who are not responsible for laundry duties; still, it is possible to document the size and composition of the telenovela audience to indicate that it is relatively efficient (see Telenovelas and Soap in Latin America).  We would like to do the same for bus-exterior advertising  here.

For the present case, we present first the ad exposure rate by age/sex groups in the next chart.  The rate is certainly not constant across these groups, as young females and young/middle-aged males are more likely to come across them.  At the very least, we can say that laundry detergent, which is traditionally targeted towards middle-aged women, is probably not a good bet for bus-exterior advertising.

In the next chart, we show the exposure rates by the educational level and the socio-economic status of the survey respondents.  Clearly, the audience for bus-exterior ads is skewed towards the affluent and better educated.  There may be many reasons for this.  One possible reason is that automobile drivers who are stuck in traffic have nothing to do but look around, whereas pedestrians in crowded streets probably do not quite pay similar attention to the car traffic.

Our final consideration is an obvious one --- the exposure rates by the average total distance of weekly commutation.  According to the next chart, those who have to travel long distances are much more likely to remember seeing bus-exterior advertisements.  In fact, we are surprised that anyone who travels more than 400km per week could possibly avoid being exposed to bus-exterior ads.

(posted by Roland Soong, 5/5/2002)

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