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Transit Marketing Campaigns We Loved in 2016

Feb 14, 2017
Last updated: Feb 14, 2018
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A poster image in a subway

7:00 am. Alarm goes off.

7:30 am. Alarm goes off again. Groan. Roll off bed. Get ready.

8:00 am. Leave the house.

8:05 am. Hop on streetcar.

8:15 am. Arrive at subway station.

8:45 am. Arrive at bus stop.

9:10 am. Arrive at second bus stop.

9:25 am. Settle down at my desk.

The day begins.

I’m not going to lie but the commuting life definitely takes a toll on me and I share the frustrations that many other riders have. Miss the bus by a few seconds and see them drive past you. Cry internally. Proceed to wait in the cold until the next one comes. That’s just one of many frustrations.

But Valentine’s Day is when we express our love and gratitude for that special someone; in this case, public transit. Even though it can be challenging at times, without it, I and millions of other people who don’t have driving as an option, wouldn’t be able to get to our destinations.

For that, I’m grateful to have access to public transit – and that’s why on this day, I want to express our love for the marketing campaigns that have sold us on their story.


So Who Stole Our Hearts?

Ride On – Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Chicago

Source: RTA

Combining traditional and digital marketing efforts, RTA’s Ride On campaign caught our attention with their clever use of bright colors and witty phrase such as “Try the Chicago-style dogs. Skip the Chicago-style traffic” for their print ads. The agency also utilized 15-second commercials to drive home the message of the many perks of taking public transit.

Eureka: The main goal of the campaign was to increase ridership numbers and the public’s awareness of the transit systems in Chicago. Through the use of relatable copy and visuals, RTA has managed to successfully and effectively resonate with their audience as they observed a usage rate of over half a million for their Trip Planner. The key takeaway is that it shows how the agency understands their demographic and is able to leverage that knowledge to create an effective campaign.   


There’s More to the Ride – The Rapid, Grand Rapids

Source: Adwheel 2016

When someone says they take public transit, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? That the transit system is moving the person from point A to B?

When The Rapid launched the There’s More to the Ride campaign, they were aiming to introduce their riders to a new way of thinking about public transit. The agency wanted the public to understand that together, they are able to build stronger communities through transit. In turn, they managed to tug at our heartstrings by highlighting stories from people who come from different walks in life such as this one that showcased how public transit supports people with disabilities.

Eureka: When your passengers are able to see and resonate deeply with what your agency stands for, they are more willing to encourage their network to utilize public transit more often.


Let’s Get Moving – Metrolinx, Toronto 


Moving the transit industry forward can be tough at times when there are multiple ongoing projects and the public has to spend a long time wrapping their heads around them. Metrolinx’s Let’s Get Moving campaign starts with a one-minute video that highlights why it’s important to be in tune with transit projects and bridges them with an interactive map on their website so it’s quick and easy to understand.

Eureka: If you have a long-term development project underway, apply Metrolink’s best practices. Focus on simplifying what’s going on into three sections: why the project is being executed, how the public can track the execution, and what the public can do to help move the project forward. 


We Move You – Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto 


It’s not every day that you find a transit agency partnering with a top cultural organization to create a memorable campaign. TTC’s We Move You campaign featured videos of various artists performing at different subway stations and then posters of the artists in the middle of a movement. Overall, they succeeded in moving us with their beautifully choreographed marketing communication that injected positive artistic energy into an otherwise long commute.  

Eureka: Form unthinkable partnerships and leverage them so they align with the overarching issues that your agency is trying to resolve.


Get Inspired in 3, 2, 1…

Radical Transparency – Everlane 

Source: Everlane’s Tumblr

Everlane is an online clothing brand that’s trying to make fashion sustainable. As part of their transparency commitment with their customers, they published a public note about the cost of cashmere and how they adjusted their retail prices accordingly.

Eureka: In transit, fare hikes may happen to cover uncontrollable events such as budget shortfalls or operating expenses. A similar clear, concise, and transparent communication piece could help reduce the friction and opposition between your agency and passengers. It might even spark unexpected discussions that could help with your daily operational challenges.


Build a Better Bay Area – Google

Source: 72andSunny

Sometimes it’s difficult to engage the public but not for Google. They worked with a digital agency to roll out interactive posters across the Bay Area in San Francisco to get the public to vote on the non-profit that will get top funding from the tech giant.

Eureka: For transit agencies, this is a great opportunity to leverage existing resources, such as bus stops and streetcar stops to name a few, and partner with local non-profits. This type of campaign can be integrated with existing community building efforts or help highlight understated non-profits that are trying to make a big impact on the community and beyond. 


The Other Side – Honda

Source: Wieden + Kennedy

Honda showcased an interactive campaign that featured two drastically different scenarios: one showed the car ride of a man’s involvement in an art heist while the other depicted the same man picking up his kids from school.

Eureka: Similarly, your passengers usually don’t see what happens on the other side of your agency. A marketing campaign that tells your side of the story, whether that’d be in the form of videos or social media posts, would help to improve your communication with existing and potential riders. It’s all about the open dialogue.


Spread the Love in 2017

3:10 pm. Wait for the first bus to start the commute all over again.

4:20 pm. Arrive at home and start working again.

The day begins again.

It was invigorating to see what other industries were doing which inspired eureka moments. But that’s just the beginning. Imagine if your agency considered marketing campaigns from all over the world. The possible solutions for your marketing and communication challenges would be endless. So how far will your agency travel from here?  

Michelle Hsu is the Marketing Engagement Coordinator at Trapeze Group where she focuses on content, social media, and marketing operations. She's worked for B2B and B2C startups in various sectors - FinTech, EdTech, and CSR. She recently graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from the Rotman Commerce program at the University of Toronto.
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