Digital Data Gives Billboard Owners More Reason to ‘Love a Good Traffic Jam’

For instance, iHeartMedia — which owns Clear Channel Outdoor — has spent the last three years looking at listener behavior on both its radio stations and its app. Its research has produced data that iHeartMedia now sells to advertisers along with demographic information and specific ad time.

However, Robert Pittman, chairman and chief executive officer of iHeartMedia, said commuters were so bombarded with information that advertisers might get them to want a product or service in the moment but not get them to remember once they’re out of their cars.

Mr. Pittman said introducing a Taco Bell breakfast menu to commuters when they’re hungry, suggesting they drink Bacardi rum when they get home or pitching a car dealership while they’re stuck in their clunker put those advertisers foremost in a commuter’s mind when they’re most susceptible to persuasion.

When 20th Century Fox was preparing to release the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” this year, iHeartRadio stations used peak commute times to air interviews about the rock band, Mr. Pittman said. On Nov. 1, a day before the film’s release, different versions of the six-minute title song played across all 650 iHeartRadio stations and sites.

“The longer the commute and the more time they’re in the car, the more they’re looking to enjoy the experience in the car or to make it at least more tolerable,” Mr. Pittman said. “We really try to make the programming that way, and we’re able to bring our advertising partners into it as well.”

Commuters using public transportation are also a coveted audience, especially in cities like New York (where 56 percent of commuters used public transportation in 2017, Boston (35 percent, San Francisco (35 percent, Washington (33 percent and Chicago (28 percent.

The Manhattan advertising technology company Intersection works with transit agencies in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia to place interactive ads, Wi-Fi hubs and video displays in and around bus stops, train stations and airports. Dafna Sarnoff, Intersection’s chief marketing officer, said partnerships with Foursquare on navigation and with companies like the ice cream maker Blue Bunny on station takeovers (like its pop-up ice cream shop in a Chicago subway station this year had become essential to holding commuters’ attention.