How do they do that? is a series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.
How do you market mass transit to people sitting in comfy cars? You build a good transit system and sell it with advertising.
That’s what Metro is doing with its award-winning communications pieces that appear on buses (outside and in), on trains, in rail stations, on billboards, on bus shelters, on the web, in print publications and through informational brochures that are available aboard buses and trains and in Metro Customer Centers.
The overall goal of the work is to convince those who have never taken transit to try it and to tell those who do take it about new and upcoming services and special offerings that will make their commutes and their lives easier. It also reports construction projects, public information meetings, how to save money riding Metro and how to get discounts available only to Metro customers.
Who creates all the pieces that have won more than 100 awards in the past 10 years? It’s done by Metro’s own in-house communications department, which functions very much like an advertising agency — without the 1950s drama you see on Mad Men, of course.
Among the most recognized and awarded campaigns was the Opposites campaign that debuted in 2008 and featured a series of two simple images each, pairing mass transit with opposites such as air pollution, high gas prices and traffic congestion.
While most work throughout metro is done on PCs, the graphic design for Metro’s advertising and customer communications is done on Apple computers, using Adobe Creative Suite software and Photoshop, plus the usual pencils, erasers, pens and printers. The team produces between 2,500 and 3,000 individual jobs each year.
Why does Metro have an in-house agency rather than hiring outside ad agencies to do the work? It saves time since the staff already knows the product well, so fewer revisions are necessary. And since many pieces are printed in-house too, the production time can be lightening fast, when necessary, as it often is.
Ideas for the campaigns come from the communications team, either in brainstorming groups or individually. But the themes are consistent: The convenience of transit. How much money riders can save by taking transit. How L.A. air-quality benefits from sharing the ride. How the stresses of sitting in traffic can be avoided. What a great improvement in quality of life taking transit offers. Jobs created by transit.
And the goal? To help riders understand how best to use the growing system and to inform L.A. County about its bright transit future … in large part because of the growing transit system made possible by Measure R.