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A promotional bus for a beer company


In bus advertising, buses and their related infrastructure is a medium commonly used by advertisers to reach the public with their message. Usually, this takes the form of promoting commercial brands, but can also be used for public campaign messages. Buses may also be used as part of a political or promotional campaign, or as a tool in a commercial enterprise. This can be small advert poster panels or whole vehicle graphic wraps that even cover the windows.


A mule drawn streetcar at Lafayette Square along St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans in the early 1890s. The front apron of the streetcar displays an advertisement for a performance of Trovatore! at the French Opera House.

Bus advertising descends from similar methods used on streetcars in the early 20th century.


Interior television display in Hong Kong

Adverts are placed in bus shelters. These can be static posters, or back illuminated displays, or rolling displays allowing many messages on one shelter. Technology has also been used to create interactive adverts.

Adverts may also be installed on associated street furniture such as the backs of benches at stops, often now on large illuminated panels that form part of the bus stop structure.


Often, the paper bus ticket is used as an advertising space. The ticket rolls for the ticket machines are pre-printed on the rear with a particular company's advert.

Bus interiors

A common location for adverts is inside the bus. Adverts are attached to the corners between the walls and ceiling overhead to catch the eye of passengers, in the same manner as used in rapid transit systems.

Increasingly, companies are using interior television systems to advertise.

Bus exteriors

A bus with a full rear surface advert, and a side panel advert fitted in special guides


Adverts are often placed as basic rectangular motifs on the side or front of a bus. These may be applied directly to the bus. Additionally, adverts may be printed on placards known as boards, which are slotted into special guide fittings attached to the side of the bus.

Partial and full adverts

Occasionally, the entire surface of a bus is turned into an advertisement. This can be a whole side or rear of a bus, or a scheme applied to the entire exterior, known as an 'all-over advert' bus.


Vinyl decals allowing use of windows, on a side and rear advert for alcohol on a Berlin bus

Some panel and full side and all-over adverts were traditionally painted on if the length of application warranted it. This would require a reasonable longevity and cost implication for advertisers, due to the requirement to take buses out of service to apply and remove paint schemes. Frequently changed panel adverts would use replaceable boards.

With the advent of adhesive vinyl technologies, this allowed adverts to be rapidly applied and removed over the top of the buses exterior paint as decals, reducing the cost and time.

The introduction of perforated and directionally transparent vinyl sheets allowed the creation of more elaborate designs that could be applied over windows (although for safety reasons not the front window), moving away from the traditional square box design approach to adverts.

With the advent of partially transparent window coverage techniques, all over adverts have been applied as a full vehicle advertising wrap windows and all. The transition from screen printing to digital printing has seen an increase in the color range and complexity of advert designs.

Campaign and Promotion buses

See also: Campaign bus

In addition to public transport buses, all-over advert buses are often privately hired specifically for a special promotional use, such as a political campaign or specific product promotions. These will often make use of open top buses to allow the interaction of the campaigners/promoters with the public.

Legal issues

In Norway, the use of wrap advertising on buses was prohibited by the road authorities. The reason behind the ban was that in an emergency the windows might need to serve as an emergency exit, and that the advertising would make the window harder to break with the emergency hammer. Gaia Trafikk argued against the ban, pointing out that their tests showed that the thin wrap had no impact on the breakability of the window, but did remove the advertising which covered the windows.[1]

See also

  • Driven media
  • Mobile billboard
  • Wrap advertising


  1. Livsfarlig reklame ("Life-threatening advertising") Dagbladet, 5 July 2001, retrieved 17 April 2007

External links

Portal-puzzle.svg Buses portal

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