Zombie advertisements during Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown

Months of coronavirus lockdowns in Melbourne had quite the effect on the city and everyone who lived through them, but one I didn’t notice was a plague of zombie advertisements around the city.

Coming to cinemas?

In March 2020 I spotted a bus with advertisements for ‘Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway‘ – in cinemas March 19.

Transdev bus #107 BS00SY on route 903 along Hampshire Road, Sunshine

The pandemic saw that date canned, the film being released a year later on 25 March 2021.

And in September 2020 I found a big advertisement for ‘Trolls World Tour‘ – in cinemas March 26. Did they mean 2020 or 2021?

Transdev bus #430 7830AO out of service on Harvester Road, Sunshine

Turns out it was March 2020 – the film was again delayed, eventually being released on 17 September 2020.

By December 2020 film studios must have learnt their lesson, and realised that your release date could be pulled out from beneath you – ‘The Dry‘ was advertised as ‘In cinemas soon’.

PTV liveried Transit Systems bus #129 BS00BT between runs on Hampshire Road, Sunshine

On 11 December 2020 the film premiered in Melbourne, with a full theatrical release following from 1 January 2021.

The bottom falls out of the ad market

With everyone stuck at home, why would an advertiser bother spending money putting their message out onto empty streets. As a result buses were stripped of outdated advertisements.

Transit Systems bus #128 BS00BQ between runs in Sunshine

Or covered with ‘house ads‘ for the Pigeon Project market research program run by outdoor advertising company JCDecaux.

Transit Systems  bus #52 5983AO on route 428 along Hampshire Road, Sunshine

But one winner

One company making money from people stuck at home was online streaming services – and they splashed out big on bus advertising. Amazon Prime Video was one.

Transit Systems bus #155 5355AO arrives at Sunshine station on route 428


Transit Systems bus #26 6840AO on route 427 at Sunshine station

Disney Plus.

Transit Systems bus #121 9379AO on route 471 departs Sunshine station

And Hayu.

Transit Systems bus #49 6026AO on route 427 along Durham Road, Sunshine

And trams too

Travel writer Tim Richards was stuck at home in Melbourne, and discovered that trams were still advertising the cancelled 2020 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Further reading

Over on Curbed they wrote about a similar phenomenon elsewhere in their piece ‘The Zombie Billboards of Locked-Down New York‘.

Standing on a subway platform now, it looks as if Riverdance’s big 25th anniversary show just opened, David Byrne’s American Utopia is still enjoying a limited Broadway run, and Mrs. America, the Phyllis Schlafly miniseries, is set to hit Hulu next month — April 2020. In stations across New York City, LaKeith Stanfield and Issa Rae have now been touching foreheads in ads for The Photograph for two Valentine’s Days. It’s the same on the streets: Cars driving into the Midtown Tunnel from Queens throughout the year were reminded that A Quiet Place Part II was supposed to open on March 20; the film won’t hit theaters until this May, but the billboard stayed up nearly until March 2021.

The zombie ads have stayed up simply because no one is buying new ones.

And over at Wikipedia they have an article detailing the “impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cinema“.

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8 Responses to “Zombie advertisements during Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown”

  1. Beren says:

    I like that you can still find bill posters for events that never happened, and they were never pulled down due to no future events. It makes the world look like an apocalypse occurred.

  2. Paul Westcott says:

    On a side note (!), it’s very disappointing to see almost the entire sides of buses plastered with vinyl wrap advertising. That can make it very difficult for passengers to see out of the bus in certain light and weather conditions.

    A number of years ago, I was told by a PTV staff member that buses wearing PTV livery had to restrict any vinyl wrap on the sides to the centre third only. That seemed to be the case at that time. Bus companies that kept their own livery (e.g. McHarry’s and Sita) had the more extensive advertising coverage.

    Now, it seems that PTV is not enforcing its “rule”, assuming it ever existed.

    • indigohex3 says:

      I live in Delahey and Transit Systems (formerly Sita Buslines, operator of Route 420 that runs along Kings Road here in Delahey) continues to do it (they kept their old livery) while CDC Melbourne has the PTV livery, but I think I have seen some of their buses (on Route 425) have advertising for most of the driver’s side. Kastoria is I think the worst offender here in Melbourne’s west with advertising covering (in some cases) entire buses (except for the front) covered in advertising. I think there should be limits on advertising on buses and other modes of transport, especially school buses that carries students.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      McHarry’s is an interesting one – it seems like they have their own dedicated advertising network, ‘Big Bus Media’.


  3. John says:

    At Southern Cross main entrance (near the clock tower) they still have up a large drinking water bottle company ad. This was up in February 2020, and still there. Pre-COVID these ads would change every 2-4 weeks.

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