Amateur advertising on the CTA

On the train the other day, I overheard a conversation with two college-aged kids. There was a handwritten, plain piece of computer paper with sharpie written over it taped over the map. It had a poorly written note on it from an aspiring rapper asking people to check out his music on his Soundcloud. The kids started laughing at how amateurish the note was and how he didn’t think to put any visuals on it. They made fun of it for a few minutes, but when they were finished talking smack, they said they were going to check it out. I laughed a little to myself, especially when they said how shocked they’d be if his songs were actually good. For all the judgmental things they said about him and his ad, it still achieved its purpose, and they were still looking at it with an open mind.


The CTA is a hotbed for advertising. Part of the genius behind advertising there, or any city’s system of public transportation, is that you can’t avoid it. Even if you bring a book, tablet or iPod on the train, you’re likely to get bored and look around. Advertising agencies representing countless colleges, ongoing studies and other things appealing to your average CTA passenger, but ad agencies aren’t the only people that take advantage of that market.


Amateur advertisers take to the trains as well, many of them not fully appreciating what they’re doing. They take advantage of the same things ad agencies take advantage of on the trains. They know their demographics are likely younger, many of them working within the city or going to school. But amateurs do have one advantage over the professional advertisers: their stuff sticks out. We’re used to seeing banner ads. We’ll glance at them for a few minutes, and tune them out afterwards. When you see an amateur’s ad, you know it’s something they really put their heart and soul into and whatever they’re advertising is something they care about.


Many also use the train as a method of direct advertising as well. Like I mentioned earlier, some musicians even perform on the train. Sure, it can be annoying when it’s bad or they keep going too long, but people listen, and when it’s good, it makes the ride go by a lot faster.



I’m blogging about this because many of the people that take to this kind of advertising come from low-income neighborhoods and probably not the best backgrounds in education, but they’re more effective at advertising than many professional advertising agencies are. There’s something to learn from that.



11 thoughts on “Amateur advertising on the CTA

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  6. Although sometimes I find amateur self made ads like the one shown above annoying sometimes I would agree that they catch my attention more as opposed to the professional ones. Every Mon/Wed/Fri when I am on the train I look at the ads on the train and I forget about them seconds later. However if I see anything that looks out of place am more likely to remember it. Although I am not interested, I feel it is successful for the advertiser to have made a memorable advertisement.


  7. I have seen this flyer on so many trains as well! It may be amateur but it surely grabs your attention because it does not look like other advertisements on the CTA. I think the fact that its not as well made actually grabs your attention and works in this rappers favour. I remember sitting on the train and staring at the poster because I couldn’t really understand the flow of the poster, so I guess it was successful?


  8. I had recently seen a few of these too and honestly laughed to myself for a bit about it, but then I thought about how creative it was and brave for someone to put out there and do to promote themselves and their talent. I think it has potential to be successful in reaching some people, for something so small and not visual, it stood out quite decently and I think it has potential to catching the attention of many others.


  9. I have seen a ton of these on the train. When I get board I try to make out what it says but have never been close enough to know what it was. Now that I know I find it very smart of this guy to do this and take advantage of it while he is the only one. I’m sure there will soon be more of these from others everywhere and the CTA will eventually have to do something about it. But for now this guy is a genius.


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