(Image source)

Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion and everybody gasped. Between Mark Zuckerberg’s new account balance and 80 million Instagram users, you’d think this would be a reasonably trustworthy indicator that photo sharing is a somewhat powerful communications tool. Because what do people snap photos of? Everything. Puppies, food, concerts, landscapes, food again, strangers, look-how-much-fun-I’m-having, and – point about to be made – ads.

News flash: that subway station, bus stop, newspaper or building wall is not the end destination for your print ad. Now, I may not know the objective of your ad but I’m going to go ahead and guess that instead of one person seeing it, you wouldn’t be completely opposed to that person’s network of, say, 500+ people being exposed to it, right? Thought as much.

Unfortunately, print designers’ creativity as well as common sense practicality when it comes to designing for the purpose of an ad’s end destination have severely fallen behind. Allow me to walk you through my favorite example: the subway. In my opinion, this is an ideal location for mind-blowing creativity. Sadly, subway stations as well as trains are overtaken by bland rather than… blow.

After having observed New Yorkers’ subway behavior for approximately 45 weeks, I can with great confidence state the following:

A. On platform.

1. People are waiting for trains.
2. People are usually facing the tracks while waiting for trains.
3. People are on their phones.
4. People can’t always read the print ads gracing the wall on the opposite platform.
(5. The zoom function on the iPhone sucks.)

Result: New York City’s daily ridership of 10 million people kind of just completely missed your ad. And you lost a bunch of money. Ouchie.

B. On train.

1. People are on the train.
2. People are not leaving the train for a while.
3. People are on their phones.
4. Train is “being held at this station momentarily because of train traffic ahead of us.”

At this point, the commuter is stuck. Stuck and completely surrounded by ads. Print Ads that for the most part are completely irrelevant to their audience. Not because of the brand. Not because of the product or service. But because of the situation and the surrounding environment. I repeat: relevancy. How come so many marketers still don’t get this? Scary. The subway car may be packed with people of different demographics and psychographics, but they all have something very much in common: right now, they are on the subway.

So what kind of improvements can we make in order to more effectively grab the subway riders’ attention? Not to mention start, continue and maintain a relationship?

Find out next week – I have a train to catch!

[message type="custom"]ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Johanna Johansson (Guest Blogger)
Johanna Johansson is a copywriter based in New York City. She is known for her conversational writing style, personality, wit and thought-provoking sarcasm. She’s also known to eat a lot. She is the founder of paperswag, a service that helps you write highly targeted and customized cover letters.[/message]

Image: The Weblicist

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We have worked with numerous successful fashion and beauty companies, creating line sheets, lookbooks, and catalogs. Our goal is to help capture the attention of buyers with beautiful graphics, while increasing your sales. With over 10 years of experience in everything from marketing and branding, to product development and graphic design, we are hoping to pass on some of the information we have learned along the way.


  1. Just an observation. As a consumer. While on a train, I look at and read ads that are in front of me. I admire, the creativity of these ads.
    And on the platform I go through the same experience. Anything I can see, I read and look at and if it’s something I’m interested in I’ll remember or make a note and pursue the product.