Train to gain

By PrintWeek Team, Monday 29 October 2012

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Supersized station ad spots prove the perfect platform

With a captive audience of hundreds of thousands every day, marketers know that major UK railway stations are an excellent advertising opportunity – and that means a grand showcase for great print. Words Dan Watson

Ask anyone who commutes by train what the experience is like and two things crop up time and again: it’s expensive and it’s crowded. While this isn’t great for the commuters themselves, marketers know that being able to target a large captive audience represents a fantastic opportunity.

As such, it’s no surprise that print advertising in railway stations and other travel hubs, such as airports, is on the rise, with large-scale advertising posters plastered across walkways, tunnels and billboards now a common sight.

There has also been the development of ‘immersion zones’, high-flow passenger thoroughfares comprising giant wall wraps, floor media and digital screens where a single advertiser can ‘own’ part of the passenger journey, such as the one McDonalds installed at London’s Waterloo Station during the Olympics. Euston and King’s Cross St Pancras stations have also been decked with similar campaigns from the likes of EDF in the past.

Mike Baker, chief executive of the Outdoor Media Centre, the trade body for outdoor media owners, says the growth of railway station advertising, which has outstripped growth in roadside advertising by approximately 10% over the past year, can be attributed to a number of factors.

“The rail sector is enjoying a steady increase in passengers, about whom there is quite a bit of data,” he explains. “Secondly, there is investment, both by Network Rail in terms of infrastructure and by the media owners in terms of new panels, which now represent 17% of the total outdoor revenues.”

Baker added that because almost all rail advertising is handled by two companies, JCDecaux and CBSOutdoor, there is clear and well-managed push to clients about the opportunities available.

Jim Cohen, head of rail at JCDecaux, has been part of the push and he explains that advertisers want to make the most of the spaces they buy, opting for large, visual displays over small-scale, but more widespread campaigns.

“It used to be the case we’d have lots of spaces around stations that we would fill-up with numerous adverts, but this was cluttered and no-one really stood out, so we’ve revamped a lot of our spaces to offer people far larger displays,” he says.

This has involved redesigning sites, such as at Euston station, where 11 sites have been replaced by just two. “This means you can have 100% of the voice in that space, and in a much larger, eye-catching manner,” adds Cohen.



The rail advertising market is booming, but tapping into this sector is not just a matter of running off some vinyl. Here is a quick guide to what you will need.

  • A high-quality press The highest quality is expected as standard. The shift to larger-scale advertising sites brings with it larger exposure, so poor-quality print can be easily noticed and will not be accepted
  • Speed of turnaround Printers in this sector have to deal with extremely fast turnarounds, so having the print speed, front-end and logistical capability to process and deliver orders quickly is essential
  • Installation teams Increasingly, advertisers and site owners are expecting the printer to handle the installation – having an in-house team to install work is now a key part of the service
  • Health and safety Not only should your installation teams be fully trained and accredited for work on railways and/or at height, the material printed on also needs to meet strict H&S criteria.


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