Forget the Year of the Horse - London's mayor, Boris Johnson, this week declared 2014 to be the "Year of the Bus" in the capital. A clear threat in the glamour stakes to Rio's World Cup.
I don’t think he meant we’ll all be forced to wait, dead-eyed, for what feels like an eternity, before everything comes at once in a single, unforgiving traffic jam. No, I believe our favourite bumbling politician was nodding his Etonian floppy mop to the fact that the Routemaster celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2014.
That our iconic hop-on, hop-offs (and try not to get trapped under the wheels, if you please) have been ferrying people around the streets of London for six decades is remarkable. It’s a little-known fact that, back when the first Routemaster pulled out of the depot, people in France were still learning to walk.
The "pulsing red arteries of the capital" is how Johnson described them. Running 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, buses play an important, if understated, role in the city’s economy.
More than 2.3 billion bus journeys a year are made in London. And what better use of these ten-foot-high mobile red beasts than advertising? A far cry from the digital innovations we’re usually writing about, but bus ads continue to have a reach and frequency that make them a compelling part of the mix.
'Last year, buses carried around £100 million-worth of ads - more than double that spent on Twitter'
Towering creative and the ability to target specific areas with tailored messages are inherent in your double-decker. Bus ads can deliver messages into the heart of the community and get people talking (just ask Garry Lace).
By way of a reality check, last year, buses carried around £100 million-worth of ads – more than double that spent on Twitter. Film and entertainment brands have long known about the power of bus advertising, spending more than £35 million last year. Similarly, high-street retailers are drawn to its proximity to point of sale in both time and space, and find buses a true leader for driving impulse purchases (think food, drinks, magazines and clothes).
Far from downmarket, TGI data shows 65 per cent of ABC1s in the UK have seen bus ads in the past week, and this rises to 74 per cent in London. As anyone at the new Exterion Media (that’s CBS Outdoor to you) will remind you, buses present the opportunity to reach the most connected urban audience in the country.
So for all you planners out there, do spare a thought for the humble bus this year.
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