On the ubiquity of advertising for TV shows in the US

A couple of months ago, I asked whether UK TV advertised itself enough. Some people argued yes, it does, but as I pointed out, compared to the US, it’s all just baby steps.

Anyway, just to prove a point, I took a few pictures of the TV adverts plastered all over New York. The sides of buses are the major areas for TV advertising. Imagine that every single bus you saw (well, 95%) had an ad for a TV show on the side and you could see perhaps one a minute while walking down any given avenue: that’s how ubiquitous it is.

Squint hard and you’ll see Portlandia on the side of this one in front of the UN building:

Portlandia on a bus

Deception currently makes up about 50% of all bus ads, despite being rubbish.

Another bus

But Banshee, The Americans, Girls and a couple of other shows make up the rest (adverts for The Hunger Games on Epix make up a goodly proportion, too)


And then, of course, there are old ads that haven’t been removed from the sides of buses yet. You can still see a fair few for the last season of Dexter. And then there’s this one for Go On plastered all over the bus outside the window of this restaurant I was in. The whole bus. It was even painted Go On yellow.

Go On bus

Yes, the picture is rubbish. Sorry. I was eating.

But buses aren’t the only story, of course. About 50% of phone booth and newsstand advertising is dedicated to TV programmes. Season two of the dullish Enlightened gets most of the look-ins, as does Girls.

Enlightened phone booth ad

But you can also see the likes of Real Time with Bill Maher, Project Runway and 1600 Penn everywhere you go.

More newstand and phone booth advertising

Project Runway

1600 Penn

Hell, even the latest Lifetime movie gets some advertising love:

Rob Lowe in HBO's Prosecuting Casey

I should probably have cropped some of those, so you wouldn’t have to squint, but I can’t be arsed.

Anyway – that’s how to advertise a TV show. Admittedly, it’s mainly Showtime, FX, NBC and HBO that seem to have got their acts together on this and they’re mainly doing it to pump their more rubbish output, but compare that with the UK’s anaemic efforts.

To be fair, I did spot an advert for Channel 4’s Utopia and one for GOLD’s Yes, Prime Minister in Victoria station yesterday. That’s two whole adverts in two hours of travel from zone 6 to zone 1 and back out again in London. Wow.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.