Chaosmap Digital Advertising & Marketing Agency | Los Angeles, CA

How Captive Audience Marketing Still Works For Advertisers

In 2010, Time Magazine wrote an article about schools selling advertising space in their hallways to companies that wanted to market to children and teenagers.

The subject matter was harmless — banner ads spanning lockers trying to sell branded notebooks and school supplies — but parents of children who attended the schools had problems with the districts essentially commercializing what’s intended to be a place of education.Cinema audience

The practice is called “captive audience advertising.”

In the case of the schools, the children really had no other choice than to walk up and down those halls every morning, seeing the ads each day.

They were the captive audience.

Today’s best and most common example would be movie theaters.

Playing ads before the movie starts is a classic example of captive audience marketing.

Unless you plan to stare at the floor or lose your seat by hiding in the bathroom, you have no way to avoid them.

The Reputation

Right now, it’s not good. For the past several years captive audience advertising has been labeled as intrusive and ineffective.

A 2004 Wired Magazine article said the method of marketing was essentially dead, and can you blame them?

Just look at the name — captive audience marketing — that term implies force, something consumers don’t take kindly to.

Advertising Redefined

Though it’s much less obvious, captive audience marketing is still used today. Let’s use the service industry for example. Many bars and pubs have TVs spread across the walls, playing any and all sports each night.

But if you look closely, some of those TVs might not be playing live TV at all. Some of them have dedicated in-house ads running food and drink specials, music events and other happenings to keep you coming back.

Chances are, you noticed them but didn’t even realize you were being targeted. It’s not subliminal advertising (because parts of that are illegal) but it is a sort of passive advertising.

It’s also incredibly cheap. According to, a starting satellite package for your bar or restaurant can be $30 per month.

On top of the cost of televisions, that’s a quick rate of return if your customers keep coming back to take advantage of your specials.

Apply It To Your Marketing Campaigns

So now that you know what captive audience advertising is, isn’t, and more importantly, what it should be, there are some pretty simple steps to apply it to your own marketing campaign.

  • Sell small. No one bought a car because they saw the ad in a movie theater. Sell smaller products — food specials, free trials, special events, etc. The amount of customers you bring in will outweigh selling big to a small number.
  • Be subtle. Passive advertising isn’t flashy and doesn’t force its way in (remember what we said earlier). Your customers shouldn’t feel like they’re being advertised to like a 30-second commercial before a YouTube video.
  • Give them options. Hulu’s advertising before videos gives you the chance to let them know if the ad shown was relevant to you. Press yes and it will show more of the same. Press no and it will try to adjust its ads to fit your style.

When done right, this method of advertising is both affordable and effective. Best of all, it’s not intrusive like the Time article implies.

Do this in your own business and you’ll like the results.

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