Why Transit Advertisers Sink Their Teeth into NYC Subway Wraps

June 25, 2024

Some subway trains just transport riders from point A to B. Others are portals into a whole new world.

That’s the magic of shuttle and subway wrap advertising in New York City and beyond! When an advertiser has a full train for a canvas, the whole trip becomes the ad. The entire journey is a branded experience. The Subway Shuttle Wrap represents the pinnacle of that experience. It is arguably our most immersive media format of all, combining fully wrapped exteriors and interiors on the 42nd Street Shuttle.

Composite of interior and exterior shots of Disney+ Doctor Who wrapped shuttle
That half-mile link is the single busiest segment of the entire MTA system, linking its two busiest stations for 100,000 riders daily – including over 10,200 an hour during morning and afternoon rush (SOURCE: MTA). The trip from Grand Central to Times Square only takes 90 seconds but Shuttle Wraps make every one of them count.

Consumers get to spend time with the brand both as they approach the train on the platform, and once they’re inside. One single advertiser is all riders encounter – but that doesn’t necessarily mean just one message.

One option that innovative advertisers have been leaning into lately has been to treat each of the Shuttle’s six train cars as its own canvas, allowing brands to tell stories that have more than one chapter.

For example, Disney+ recently promoted the new season of Doctor Who with a shuttle wrapped in a series of car-unique creatives that brought riders into the world of the show. Or its universe, more precisely, as an alien landscape was one of the train car themes along with 1960s Mod London and a prehistoric tableau. (The Doctor really gets around!)

When Ncuti Gatwa, the 15th actor to portray the iconic character, visited the NYC subway and took a selfie with the car that had his face on it, his “Mama, I made it” moment instantly went viral upon posting to his social channels. “This is a big deal in our city, to be on the subway,” beamed Seth Meyers days later while interviewing the star on NBC’s Late Night.

Composite of interior and exterior shots of New York Times wrapped shuttle
The New York Times also used this strategy to promote its full range of products – including Wirecutter, The Athletic, and NYT Games – by devoting a full shuttle car to each of them. Riders could even scan QR codes inside the trains to engage more deeply with the advertised content! This campaign – produced in collaboration with STUDIOS, our in-house creative agency – took home the Gold in two categories at the 2024 OBIE Awards.

In addition to the Shuttle, we also offer Subway System Wraps on all of the full-length lines of the MTA subway system. It’s the same general concept as the shuttle wrap but the specifics are little different.

Composite of interior and exterior shots of Target x DVF wrapped shuttle
Instead of six cars, advertisers can choose from 8-, 10-, and 11-car options – and instead of a full wrap on the inside, subway advertisers get an Interior Brand Train, which includes all of the existing media on the inside of the train – such as the banner-shaped cove media overhead and the square cards at eye level.

There’s also another difference: Subway System Wraps on lines that travel above ground impact the neighborhoods they traverse too! Train lines where wraps impact more than just riders include the 1 in upper Manhattan, the J, M, and Z through the heart of Brooklyn, and the 7 across Queens.


Blue Man Group wrapped Chicago Metra commuter train
Love the concept, New Yorkers not your audience? We have similar train wrap offerings across the nation, including:
Product specifics vary from city to city. What doesn’t vary is that whichever audience of commuters you’re looking to reach, OUTFRONT can wrap them up for you. Contact us now to learn how!

Author: Jay Fenster, Marketing Manager @ OUTFRONT
Links to third-party content are not endorsed by OUTFRONT Media.