OUTFRONT Media is partnering with transit agencies across the U.S. to align the riders with the companies they trust.
This out-of-home media company is claimed to be the largest of its kind in the North American transit sector, generating more than $500 million in annual revenue on behalf of its transit authority partners before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two years later, OUTFRONT is adjusting to the agencies’ and riders’ needs through digital signage and advertising.
Being Out in Front
To better understand the benefits of digital signage, it’s important to know the company partnering with the likes of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), New York’s MTA, and many more across the nation.
“We leverage the power of technology, location, and creativity to connect brands with consumers outside of their homes through diverse sets of billboards and transit and mobile assets across North America,” says Victoria Mottesheard, VP, marketing, NY/East region, at OUTFRONT.
This is an industry many people may not know about, according to OUTFRONT’s VP, transit, Damian Gutierrez, but it’s one that is generating revenue for transit agencies.
“We are able to help our transit authority partners generate revenue from sources other than the farebox,” Gutierrez says. “They use that revenue for things like station cleaning or other operational maintenance tasks.”
There’s also the process of OUTFRONT and the transit agencies coming to an eventual partnership. The company says it’s invested in major urban centers when placing a bid.
“We look for transit authorities that are part of the fabric of these urban centers,” Gutierrez says. “We love to be able to reach people in their commute as they go through their day and as they go back and forth in their neighborhoods within a city. The reason we love it is because our advertisers are seeking those audiences to engage.”
The company has deployed over 13,000 digital displays throughout the MTA's stations and railcars over the past three years, with 4,000 dedicated to customer information and system status. Over 400 of the displays were deployed as retrofits on rail rolling stock.
“We are really focused on forward-thinking smart cities, opportunities for us to reach consumers throughout their daily journey, and to really help brands tell stories across the media throughout the different touch points,” Mottesheard says.
Not only can digital advertising and signage generate revenue to address an agency’s needs, OUTFRONT’s transit contracts often include significant infrastructure projects.
“In New York City, for example, we are in the process of building out thousands of digital displays, and that comes along with electrical work and network cabling and infrastructure and, just this past year, we replaced and modernized all the next-train arrival digital displays throughout Miami-Dade's Metrorail system,” Gutierrez says.
Along for the Ride
OUTFRONT is also invested in knowing more about the riders.
The company launched an engagement survey titled “MOMENTS'' to obtain more insight into the riders’ trends. This was conducted through New York City and the MTA with 1,000 respondents.
“We are really proud to say that we as a company have invested in more data and insights,” Mottesheard says. “There is more opportunity to not only provide our clients with information on behaviors and diving into who today's consumer is, but we’re able to also provide that to our transit authority partners.”
OUTFRONT has also conducted studies in Washington D.C. and is planning additional surveys in other markets in the future. The overall takeaway from the research is that today’s customer is more active and using public transit.
“What we are actually seeing is that when people are returning to office, in a more flexible style, they have a bit more joy in their day,” Mottesheard says. “They are excited to see colleagues and visit the restaurants they know. When they are working from home, they have a bit more time on their hands to engage in social activities.”
OUTFRONT has deployed over 600 digital displays throughout the MBTA's subway system in the past four years. The company recently completed a pilot deployment of 30 Customer Information Displays dedicated to passenger information and system status.
The agency has exercised a contract option for 10 more years with OUTFRONT, which includes the expansion of digital signage across the network.
Since 2016, the MBTA has looked for new ways to make information more widely available to customers in stations.
“There's been an evolution of our own understanding of what we can do with all of this digital signage in our system,” says the MBTA’s Director, Digital Ride, Karti Subramanian.
One of the challenges MBTA found was finding the right balance between commercial advertising and showing the real-time information riders need to know.
“We are working with OUTFRONT to deploy 250 screens that are in station lobbies dedicated exclusively to MBTA service information and where we display our real-time content 100 percent of the time,” Subramanian says.
The company has also further helped find the balance when it comes to digital advertising.
“OUTFRONT has been a really good partner here in helping us think about these kinds of rider problems,” Subramanian says. “They’re willing to work with us on segregating advertising from real-time information and making sure riders get the right information in the right place at the right time.”
As both OUTFRONT and the MBTA experience the benefits of digital signage, they are willing to share the lessons they have learned along the way.
Subramanian explains the importance of talking to the riders themselves.
“If you start by talking to riders, by trying to understand what your riders actually want at different points in their journey, that very quickly leads to certain decisions, like the decision to provide dedicated space for real-time information about the system and service,” Subramanian says.
OUTFRONT also emphasizes how riders are looking for a variety of information other than commercial advertising.
The company surveyed over 350 subway riders in four weeks to better understand consumer attention in transit. The results showed 91% of riders enjoyed the experience of MOMENTS by OUTFRONT (the company’s in-house content publisher platform) and 60% of riders noticed the campaign during their morning and afternoon rush hours.
“We are proud to share content with our transit authority partners to draw in riders who are looking forward to not just seeing the advertisement, but also to see relevant content that matters to them,” Mottesheard says. “So whether it's related to weather or transit authority information, or arts and culture, or food recipes, we have those spots on the digital side to really draw in consumer attention.”
Lastly, OUTFRONT has noticed a trend while gravitating toward major urban centers that other agencies can keep an eye on when considering digital advertising.
“One of the more interesting trends that we've seen is the surge of public transit usage on the weekends, and transit patterns tend to be more neighborhood-to-neighborhood these days,” Gutierrez says. “So we’re seeing more vibrant, self-contained transit commuting patterns happening in the cities that we are fortunate to work with, and we are encouraged by what that might mean for post-pandemic ridership returns.”
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LG Electronics USA
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Luminator Technology Group
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Tolar Manufacturing Company
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