London Boat Show Drives Attendance with Transit Media

Several weeks ago, Europe’s first boat show of the year, the 2014 London Boat Show, celebrated its 60th anniversary with 88,593 visiting the show across its nine-day run.

I wanted to comment on one part of the event’s marketing, the organizer’s use of transit advertising, specifically Tube, Train & Docklands Light Railway (DLR) advertising, because I believe there is much untapped opportunity here for event organizers.

If you organize large consumer shows like the London Boat Show, major urban transit systems should certainly be considered as part of your media plan for the simple reason they deliver enormous scale. Consider that the London Underground alone carries more than 1 billion passengers a year.

Due to daily use of bus and rail systems, transit media can also deliver high frequency, a key value driver for attendee acquisition advertising. For example, a person commuting from the suburbs to a job in the city could potentially use the same system up to 10 times a week (twice a day, five days a week).

The London Boat Show ran ads across multiple systems: Tube, Train and DLR, which highlights a key point: In major cities, there are multiple networks feeding the city from the suburbs as well as transporting people across the city. Understand the footprint of the different bus, train and subway systems and choose the systems and routes which best match your target audience.

Unlike billboards, which are more familiar to many event organizers, where a relatively small number of strategically placed units can move the needle, with transit you generally need to employ a much greater number of units, unless you are using a takeover strategy. This point is clearly reflected in the London Boat Show’s execution, which according to its web site, used 5,000 panels.

Transit advertising offers differential solutions for dwell time and frequency objectives, and a wide range of ad formats: Bus and rail interiors and exteriors. Platform displays. Turnstiles. Hallways. Stairs. Vehicle wraps. Takeovers, i.e., station dominations. You have a lot of choices in printed transit media.

Add to the above new digital formats and you can see there are a lot of ways to get your message out to potential attendees with transit advertising.

Cristopher Levy runs Encore Media Partners, an audience strategy, marketing and media buying agency, which specializes in “live” exhibitions and events. Connect with him on LinkedIn or at