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Jul 21, 2023
(Updated on
Jul 21, 2023
)

Subway Ad-Vantage: Revolutionizing Brand Reach and Impact on the New York City Subway

In recent years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City has been at the forefront of digital advertising, providing a platform for digitally native startups like Casper and Hims to gain widespread recognition. Despite this progress, the purchasing process for MTA ads has remained low-tech, relying on directly sold insertion orders. However, a transformative change is on the horizon as Outfront Media, the company responsible for selling ads on the MTA, has introduced programmatic advertising. This revolutionary shift presents a fresh set of opportunities for brands, enabling them to reach their target audience with greater precision and maximize the impact of their advertising campaigns.

Reaching a diverse and extensive audience is a fundamental goal for any brand, and programmatic advertising on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City provides a remarkable opportunity to achieve just that. By leveraging programmatic advertising, brands can tap into the vast commuter base that utilizes the MTA's transportation network daily. This audience consists of people from various demographics, backgrounds, and interests, offering brands the potential to connect with a wide range of potential customers.

  1. Increased Reach: The MTA's programmatic advertising platform allows brands to extend their reach to millions of people who commute through the subway system and other transit networks. This expanded exposure ensures that brands can connect with audiences they might not have reached through other advertising channels.
  2. Targeted Advertising: Programmatic advertising on the MTA offers precise targeting capabilities, enabling brands to deliver their messages to specific segments of the audience. Through data-driven insights and advanced targeting options, brands can tailor their ads based on variables such as time of day, day of the week, and location. This granular level of targeting ensures that ads are shown to the right people at the right time, maximizing the chances of engagement and conversion.
  3. Enhanced Engagement: The MTA's digital screens and interactive features provide a captivating and immersive advertising experience. Brands can leverage dynamic content, such as videos, animations, and interactive elements, to capture the attention of commuters and create memorable brand interactions. This heightened engagement can lead to increased brand awareness, brand recall, and ultimately, customer loyalty.


  1. Amplified Impact: By combining the extensive reach of the MTA's transit system with programmatic advertising's precision targeting, brands can achieve a more resonating impact on their intended audience. The ability to deliver tailored messages to specific groups of commuters enhances the relevance and effectiveness of the advertising campaigns. As a result, brands can generate higher levels of engagement, boost brand recognition, and increase the likelihood of driving conversions.
  2. Cost-Effectiveness: Programmatic advertising on the MTA offers brands the opportunity to optimize their advertising budgets and maximize the return on investment. By leveraging programmatic platforms, brands can automate the process of buying and managing ad space, eliminating inefficiencies and reducing costs associated with manual insertion orders. Additionally, the ability to target specific audiences reduces wasted ad spend on irrelevant impressions, ensuring that brands are utilizing their budgets efficiently.

The Power of Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising is a game-changer when it comes to the way advertisers purchase ad space. By utilizing a demand-side platform, brands now have the ability to bid for available inventory on the MTA's digital screens positioned above subway entrances and exits. Moreover, the MTA plans to expand this inventory to include screens in subway stations, Long Island Rail Road, and Metro North platforms in the near future. This programmatic approach provides advertisers with a level of control and precision over their campaigns that was previously unimaginable. They can now target their ads based on variables such as time of day, day of the week, and location, enabling them to reach their desired audience more effectively.

One of the most significant advantages of programmatic advertising is its efficiency. Ad buyers can now ensure that their budgets are utilized to their full potential, optimizing every dollar spent. This increased efficiency is particularly beneficial for brands new to transit advertising, as programmatic advertising brings flexibility to the table. These brands can easily purchase inventory and manage all their digital media buys in one central location. The streamlined process, along with the automation of workflows and unified reporting, enhances the overall efficiency and effectiveness of advertising campaigns.

The Growth of Programmatic Advertising 

While direct buys still hold the lion's share of advertising campaigns on the MTA, programmatic advertising is gaining momentum and transforming the landscape. The MTA and Outfront Media have adopted a strategy to attract new brands that may not have previously considered advertising with the MTA, and this approach has already proven successful. Surprisingly, a whopping 78% of advertisers who bought ads programmatically were entirely new to the MTA, showcasing the immense potential for growth and expansion in this space.

The transition to programmatic advertising brings significant benefits for the MTA, especially considering its financial struggles, exacerbated by the challenges posed by the pandemic. Thus, the infusion of new revenue streams is crucial. By embracing programmatic advertising, the MTA can tap into the rebounding digital out-of-home advertising sector, which is projected to reach a substantial $2.94 billion in investment in the United States by 2023.

It is essential to recognize that programmatic advertising is not intended to completely replace traditional direct buys. While programmatic advertising offers enhanced efficiency and flexibility, there are certain types of transit advertising, such as taking over an entire subway station, that may still be better suited for direct deals. Therefore, programmatic advertising should be viewed as a complementary approach, allowing advertisers to maximize the reach and impact of their campaigns while also utilizing the advantages of traditional direct buys.

The MTA's venture into programmatic advertising represents a momentous step forward in its journey to adapt to the digital era. With the utilization of available inventory and the harnessing of the flexibility and measurement capabilities of programmatic advertising, brands can now optimize their campaigns and attain their advertising goals with greater effectiveness. The introduction of programmatic advertising not only unlocks fresh possibilities for brands to engage their target audience in a dynamic and compelling manner but also serves as a crucial asset for the MTA as it tackles its financial challenges. By generating new revenue streams, programmatic advertising paves the way for a sustainable future for the organization, ensuring its continued success.

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