KBH On-Train Media

Putting advertising on trains back on track

I joined KBH's team as marketing manager to help turnaround the performance of their on-train advertising business, a media format that was struggling to mature.

Relaunching the proposition in April 2006, we created a new marketing strategy based on quality which:

  • radically altered perceptions of on-train advertising and transformed KBH's brand image among key clients

  • successfully re-positioned the company as a quality leader in the transport media segment

  • boosted quarterly media revenue by 300% immediately after the relaunch (Q2 2006)

  • increased in annual revenue by an incredible 127% in 2007

  • enabled the team to build a mature multi-million pound business which 4 years after our relaunch generated 7 times more annual revenue than it did in 2005


The challenge

In 2005, KBH’s on-train advertising proposition was facing growing pains. The company briefed me to isolate the main problems facing the division, devise a strategic plan to put it back on a path to growth and deliver a profit for the first time in it's 7-year history. 

When I first met members of KBH's management team, they articulated a surprisingly wide range of factors that could have been impacting sentiment towards their media solutions negatively. But they were having much more trouble ranking the most important issues - those which needed to addressed as a matter of urgency to start improving the performance of the business.


Turning to key customers for answers

To help understand what the division's priorities should be, I initiated a customer survey to measure outdoor media buyer's perceptions of the company's products and services, and provide us with up-to-date information about the current needs and preferences of their customers; Britain's biggest brand advertisers.. 

The survey showed us that KBH's on-train advertising products and services were perceived to be relatively low quality by outdoor media specialists - just 3 large companies responsible for around 80% of all outdoor media expenditure - especially in comparison to our direct competitors.

The main weaknesses placing constraints on demand for our format included:

  • perceptions of on-train advertising media in a stage of infancy, with teething problems

  • concerns around ad visibility ("was my client's ad seen") and accountability ("did my client's campaign achieve its goals") 

  • the train interior environment was considered by some to be unappealing - especially among the sample who were regular rail users/commuters themselves

  • 7 different billboard sizes was just too many for production folks to deal with

  • the media lacked independent research and evidence in the form of case studies that it actually worked

  • the company produced low quality marketing materials 

The problems with buyer perceptions were further exacerbated by external factors, including:

  1. the introduction of daily freesheet newspapers to London's advertising market targeting the commuter audience

  2. the digitisation of London Underground's advertising estate, also targeting commuters

When both primary and secondary research findings were pulled together, the evidence suggested a media environment driven by intense competition, a firm commitment to quality among established players, a good deal of digital innovation and an on-train advertising proposition which lacked all of these characteristics!

KBH’s growth prospects began to look a lot rosier though when we discovered a £6 billion investment in a new fleet of railway carriages was coming to fruition imminently. Initiated five years earlier by the government of the day, it meant all 12 train operating companies (TOC's) running commuter services into London were replacing nearly all their trains. Literally hundreds of new carriages would completely transform the display environment for advertising inside trains, and boost the quality of passenger's ad viewing experience immeasurably.

To capitalise on this event, and guided by the findings from our primary research, we reformulated the train advertising proposition to completely new specifications, with:

  • more ad display frames moved into passengers immediate eye line (rather than up above luggage racks) 

  • larger 2 and 4-week packages of ad facings designed to reach a mass commuter audience more frequently

  • high quality display frames in just 4 standard sizes (previously there were 7)

  • passenger research to assist media buyers selling train media in to clients (we used TGI data and passenger surveys from TOC's)

  • independent pre- and post-campaign research to prove the effectiveness of train advertising media campaigns

  • a quality-based company image for KBH including a new website, brochures, case studies, testimonials, passenger research dossiers and more

Design Showcase

Media Packs, Advertising, Promotional Material and Digital Comms


The impact of the new strategy was both dramatic and immediate. A month after our relaunch in mid-April 2006, sales trebled and continued to growth month on month for the remainder of the calendar year.

By the end of the following year (2007), revenue from the train advertising division increased by 127% year-on-year, and the division returned a modest profit for the first time ever in its 9-year history!

By 2008, it was clear that we'd succeeded in our goal of re-positioning KBH as a quality outdoor advertising contractor, with a superb media proposition that was being chosen regularly, and on its own merits, for inclusion on the media plans of Britain's biggest advertisers seeking to target commuters in and out of Greater London.

And most top tier brands were returning time and time again with repeat business. 

Today, the company is a mature multi-million pound operation which delivers 7 times more revenue each year than before we relaunched the proposition. KBH's team have spectacularly turned around the performance of a media which only a short time ago was perceived to be struggling through infancy.

Last updated: 20 Nov 2018




YoY after launch (first year)




YoY after launch


Increase in Av


YoY after launch

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About this Site

Lucidity is a site which showcases my work as a strategic marketing planner and manager over the past 10 years.

In that time, I've helped a number of company's address complex challenges in adapting to changes in consumer behaviour. From strategy development to digital project design and delivery, this site reveals how modern marketing techniques and agile business practices have been employed to build some incredible consumer and business brands.

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