Captive Advertising and Your Small Business

Captive Advertising and Your Small Business
  • Opening Intro -

    Captive advertising, sometimes known as captive audience advertising, has seen better days.

    These days, ads are served up all over the place and "ad blindness" has set in.


Still, there are ways to get your message across without infuriating people, provided that your ads are interesting, timely and appropriately placed.


Captive advertising represents those ads that people must view no matter what. An earlier form of this medium included highway billboards. More recent forms have included posters in public places. Today, some would consider any ads that appear online to be captive ads. However, ad blocking software has essentially broken up that captivity, giving web users the freedom to view what they want.


Small businesses have long used taxi, bus and rail service cars for advertising. In subway systems, ads are routinely place above the windows and run on both sides of the car. Buses have ads on the exterior sides and taxis may list ads on the top of the cab or on the trunk. The catchiest ads are those that wrap the entire vehicle. Typically, you can place such ads on private cars and pay the owners to carry your ads for a flat fee per month.


With your popcorn, candy and soda in hand, you make your way to your cinema seat. As you sit down, a line of advertisements are displayed from local businesses. If you are lucky, they are interesting, informative and entertaining. If not, you will still have to endure the ads and then sit through six to nine movie previews before the featured presentation begins. This form of captive advertising is relatively new. When movie theaters realized that customers had to see the ads, they began to sell and show them. Such ads are subject to blindness, but not as much as you think: dark theaters, big screens and a high sound volume are hard to avoid.

Service Stations

Ads at the pump began to appear when service stations began to expand from pumps-only service to full retail outlets selling snacks, meals and sundry items. Ads are typically located on top of the pump and invite people to come inside to take advantage of the daily special. Some service station owners have freed that space for local businesses while others include video ads while you are pumping. You can veer your eyes when the ads are playing, but probably not as the novelty has yet to wear off.

Ad Considerations

Small businesses considering captive advertising should weigh the opportunity against the cost. With people seemingly immune to some forms of advertising, the only way to overcome these obstacles is to create ads that are visually stimulating and offer a clear call to action.

See AlsoAdvertising Options for Small Businesses


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Categories: Small Business

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".