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Financial Woes Haunt Saigon Public Transport as Bus Ads Attract Zero Interest

Advertising on buses is falling out of favor in the eyes of Saigon’s advertisers.

In early 2017, the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transport approved a scheme to put advertisements on all bus routes in Saigon. The decision came after a successful eight-month trial with 10 downtown routes in 2016. Flash forward to today, the city’s buses are reportedly struggling to sell advertising space, according to Tuoi Tre.

For two years, the municipal Public Transport Management Center has been in charge of holding auctions for the spaces on the side of local buses. Apart from the successful round of auction that took place after the scheme was greenlit, four most recent auctions were complete failures as no brand or advertising agency turned up to bid for the advertising packages.

The lack of interest spells troubles for Saigon’s bus operators as ads contribute to a significant portion of their yearly income. In a perfect world, the city’s fleet of 1,200 buses could fetch over VND135 billion a year in advertising money. Every year, a 40-seat bus can earn VND92.9 million in ad money. This figure increases to VND102.69 million and VND251 million for each 55-seat and double-decker bus, respectively.

“The advertising trends of today have changed,” Deputy Director of the HCMC Public Transport Management Center Le Ha An told Tuoi Tre. “Buses are no longer an attractive medium for advertisements.”

An thinks that the rise in popularity of social media platforms has lured advertisers away from traditional channels like buses. The impact of ads placed on buses is harder to measure while those run on social media like Facebook can reach thousands of users over a short period of time.

With dwindling interest from advertisers, bus operators are implementing several perks in hopes of attracting new clients. For example, the required advance payment for contracts is lowered to 5-10% of contract value from 20% previously. Advertisers can also sign shorter one- or two-year contracts instead of three years like before.

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