Commuters - Research - Commuters under the microscope

More and more Britons are commuting to work each day - and spending longer getting there, according to research. Hayley Pinkerfield looks at what this means for advertisers targeting these 'people on the move'.

Whether we like it or not, the amount of time Britons spend commuting and the number of us doing the daily slog are both increasing. Journeys to work have almost doubled from an average journey time of 35 minutes in 2003 to 1hr 5mins in 2008, according to Kinetic's Moving World research, conducted over spring and summer this year. The average commuter spends 139 hours a year travelling to and from work, while the distances they cover are increasing. The IPA's TouchPoints2 research, unveiled in July, places the average total time spent travelling in any weekday (Mon-Sun) at 1hr 24 mins, up from the 1hr 22 mins from TouchPoints1 in 2005.

Both factors increase considerably for Londoners, who spend the equivalent of one whole month per year commuting. London swells during the working week, as its resident population of 7.5 million is supplemented by two million commuters, not to mention 12 million overseas visitors and 15 million UK visitors.

And these figures are predicted to increase further. London's 27.2 million daily passenger journeys are forecast to rise to 31.2 million by 2025. Bus journeys are forecast to rise by 4.4% between 2006-07 and 2010-11 - from 4.7 million to 4.9 million (source: Passenger Transport Executive), while the number of Tube passenger journeys exceeded 1.1 billion in the year to April 08 (source: TfLs Transport 2025 report).

But who are these consumers on the go? What are their needs, motivations and mindsets, and how can advertisers successfully target them?

Britons on the move: "This is my time to get things done"

CBS Outdoor has just released the results of its largest piece of research to date, Britain on the Move, in conjunction with the Future Foundation, which sampled 1,800 respondents. CBS head of research Anthony Waithe says the study steps back from last year's The London Commuter, and is largely based on understanding Britons' behaviour as a nation. "We haven't focused on specific formats, and the study isn't advertiser-centred. Britain on the Move is different because it starts with the consumer."

Time spent commuting is far from dead time. It is, in fact, valuable. Britain on the Move highlights that the commuter's mindset is very different to that of a person at home. Commuters are trying to do things they don't get a chance to do at work. Whether reading, using their mobile or mentally ticking off shopping lists, there's always something going on. One might think this makes the commuter a tricky target for advertising. Is an advertiser better served targeting people when they're alert or when they're relaxed?

Waithe argues that the commuter's focused and receptive mind is great news for advertisers. "From an advertiser's point of view, the commuter mindset is 'this is my time to get things done'. We have a clear idea of what type of message you can hit people with, and what they're likely to take in, which can be used to great advantage," he says.

Britain on the Move finds that, as commuting distances increase, "on the move" technology, including BlackBerrys, laptops and mobile phones, adds some 99 million working days and an additional £9bn to the UK economy.

Britain's commuters spend more than a fifth (22%) of their travel time doing and/or thinking about work. Overall, 36% of women and 50% of men say they find it useful to use new technologies on their journey.

Journey times: Rail and Tube ads work for City commuters

The commuter picture is varied across Britain, with a clear divide between London and elsewhere. Only 11% of commuters drive to work in the capital, versus 76% outside.

According to Titan, this means roadside billboards are a great way to reach commuters outside London, but rail and Tube advertising are more effective means of communication within the city.

Londoners rack up the longest journey time of 1hr 8mins, while those in the South West have the shortest commute at 41 minutes (Source: IPA TouchPoints Hub Survey 2008). CBS Outdoor head of research Anthony Waithe confirms that London commuters spend more time on their journeys than anyone else in Western and Eastern Europe.

"Britain is indeed a country on the move, and Britons are showing no sign of standing still soon," he adds.

Media consumption: Radio and internet are most prevalent

Commuters spend on average 30 minutes less per day watching commercial TV than all adults, according to TouchPoints2. They also spend a third less time reading the newspaper than all adults. So how are they consuming media?

While commuting, 45% of all adults listen to the radio. Some 13.1 million (50%) of working commuters often notice billboard advertising, making them 7% more likely than all adults to do so. Online is, unsurprisingly, an important channel for reaching the working population: commuters spend on average 30 minutes more on the internet per day than all adults.

Quality audience: Mobile groups are more likely to act on ads

Commuters are a high-quality audience. For a start, nearly 60% of them are ABC1s and 35 to 44-year-olds are the largest commuting band.

Joe Hall, head of insight at Titan Outdoor, says media fragmentation has made this ABC1 audience much harder to reach via traditional routes such as press and television.

What's more, the commute is that rare thing, a time when consumers actually welcome distraction in the form of advertising. Anthony Waithe, head of research at CBS Outdoor, says: "If advertisers can offer something that will help people, they will be perceived in a different light. The idea that people are stressed when travelling is just not true."

Hall agrees that the commuter mindset is "relaxed and attentive". And, as they are on the move, commuters are also more likely to act on ad messaging. Earlier research by CBS Outdoor (The Mobile Pound) found that most mobile groups are not only more likely to act on impulse, but also to spend more.

Train travellers: Captive audience

Commuters are a captive audience, as well as a high-calibre one.

They have the time to receive advertising messages. You'd think this unlikely, given that ABC1s are exposed to a brain-numbing 2,000-plus messages each day (source: Titan Connected, 2007).

Ad avoidance, either conscious or subconscious, is the norm these days. Online, people use pop-up blockers, and skip through TV ads using Sky+.

However, while commuting, people actually welcome ads.

Titan's new Connected research, released in late 2007, focuses on rail travel.

Fieldwork was spread over two waves: the first, in spring 2007, focused on rail users, while the second, in October 2007, revealed their relationship with advertising.

Overall, the research describes a receptive audience.

Rail dwell time is an opportunity to reach people between work, when they are too busy to receive advertising, and their leisure time, when they don't want to receive advertising.

Titan Outdoor head of insight Joe Hall says: "Rail passengers are also subconsciously listening out for travel information, which can make advertising very effective and potentially highly engaging."

They are also more likely to respond to advertising.

48% of those surveyed said they had made contact with an advertiser after seeing a rail ad;

22 mins - the average time commuters daily spend in major rail terminals;

24% of commuters don't have time to read ads at rail stations.

People on the Move

44% - Always carry a book if they are likely to be travelling on public transport

43% - Find it really useful to be able to use new technologies on the move

35% - Find journeys give them a chance to read or learn about things they don't otherwise get a chance to

20% - Say electronic gadgets such as their mobile phone, PDA or laptop have made their journey to work more productive

34% - Enjoy looking at posters and advertising while they travel

Source: CBS Outdoor/Future Foundation - Britain on the Move.

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