Due to the high ridership of subways, ads placed on trains and platforms attract a lot of eyeballs each day. Often these local commuters will be exposed to the same ad multiple times a day, enhancing brand visibility.

What is Subway Advertising?

Subway advertising is a form of OOH advertising that can take place either in the subway cars themselves or on the platform and other wallspace around the station. Urban panels, also considered subway advertising, are posters on street level at the entrance to subway stations.

Car cards inside the trains are similar to billboards, only smaller. As ridership on subways is consistent, and even overwhelming during commute times, subway advertising is a unique opportunity to put your brand in front of a captive audience.

Types of Subway Ads

Subway ads can take several different forms, depending on the needs of your marketing campaign. A few of the different types are:

  • Car cards: Car cards are posters that are placed inside the train. These can be smaller horizontally oriented graphics at the top portion of the subway car. Car cards can also be larger posters placed on the larger spaces at the end of the car. These are vertical posters that are affixed to the wall.

  • Platform posters: Platform posters are large posters that are placed around the subway station and greet commuters as they walk to their train. These can be placed on the entryway to the station or on the wall on the opposite side of the tracks. In some cases subway stations have places for digital ads to be displayed.

  • Exterior placements: Exterior placements involve wrapping the entire side of a subway train with an advertisement.

  • Station domination: Station domination, also known as a station takeover, involves owning all advertising at the subway station.


There are many benefits to launching an ad campaign in subways. Since most subway riders in the U.S. will be local to the market, local businesses have a unique opportunity to capture attention and market share of neighborhood residents. Restaurants, for example, would greatly benefit from advertising in subways.

Due to the nature of subway ridership you can reach a wide range of demographics with your ads. And you know that riders are a captive audience, unlike tv ads there’s no changing the channel.

Car cards, platform posters, and urban panels (signs on the street) are all a great way to get your ad in high visibility areas.

Another benefit is consistency. Subway commuters take the same train everyday, multiple times a day. This is a great way to get repeated exposure to a captive audience.

How Subway Advertising Can Enhance your OOH Advertising Strategy

Subways ads can work as a microcosm of your existing OOH ad strategy. An effective Chief Marketing Officer will find ways to feature an ad campaign’s spokesperson not only on OOH ads but social media as well. In New York, nearly 8 million people ride the full MTA network each day. Many of those riders are commuters who have a long commute. That means that those riders can see your car cards for more than an hour each day. This brand awareness can supplement other OOH strategies.

You can use your subway ads to mirror or expand on a marketing campaign you are already running. It’s not uncommon to see the likes of Carrie Walsh, Megan Rapino, or Serena Williams being featured in cross channel advertising campaigns across a city like NYC.

Subway Advertising Locations

Not every city in North America has a subway, making this form of advertising limited in scope and demographics. NYC is known for its subway system. Millions of New Yorkers ride it everyday. However, other cities in the U.S. have a growing number of subway riders, Washington D.C, Boston, and Los Angeles being among them.

The subway is no longer synonymous with NYC. This expansion of subway systems extends the reach of campaigns on trains or in stations. This breadth of coverage means that subway ads are a perfect way to reach a national audience if needed. At the same time, the local nature of subways makes them ideal for local markets who are searching for new and exciting marketing channels.

How much does Subway Advertising cost?

Since subways are only in dense urban areas, ad costs can be similar to billboards. However, due to the various formats and sizes that subway ads can take, there is a wide range of cost.

In addition to factors of ad size, length of placement also determines cost. A longer ad run will cost more than a shorter one. Location also factors in as well. Platform posters on stations far from the urban core will be cheaper than posters appearing in more heavily trafficked stations.

Types of ads also factor into cost, smaller car cards will be cheaper than a digital ad on the station or a total train wrap.

Subway Advertising Examples

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