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.

  • Adam Bowie

    I totally agree. UK television is woefully under-advertised. And that become particularly important if you're a broadcaster who for budgetry reasons, only has a handful of big new shows a year, or your runs are very short. But then maybe promoting a 13 or 22 episode show makes better sense than a two-parter.

    Ironically, some of the most advertised series in the UK seem to be those slightly second rate US dramas that pop up on channels aside from Sky's. If Really only has one drama, then their entirely promotional budget goes into Hart of Dixie or whatever.

    The BBC used to advertise some of their big new shoes on posters and the cinema, but they've stopped – probably because they received criticism for wasting licence fee payers' money.

    I think UK TV stations have in the past decided that the best thing to do was to use their own channels for promotion. But let me tell you that if you're Channel 5, or even Channel 4, then I'm not likely to see your on-air trails because I'm neither interested in non-entities stuck somewhere in Elstree, nor Hugh/Jamie/Gordon/Gok/Kirsty etc.

  • Rullsenberg

    There were a lot of ads for New Girl I saw in Santa Monica and SF…

  • It's poor, isn't it? Plus if you watch everything on the iPlayer, 4oD, ITV Player, you don't see the adverts for other programmes

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