“Burgess team members are not just creative marketing wizards. They’re good listeners and politically savvy, which allowed us to build consensus among eight partner agencies during a crisis.”
—TOM BELL, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, GREATER PORTLAND COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS
Burgess worked closely with area transit agencies to start bringing people back to mass transit in southern Maine.
Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) represents a partnership of eight transit providers in Southern Maine, which all saw a sharp drop in ridership during the pandemic because 1) many people were not going to their usual job sites; and 2) people were concerned about the safety of riding with others in a confined space. GPCOG's goal was to create a unified marketing program to help bring ridership back to pre-pandemic levels.
GPCOG has very limited experience in promotional campaigns, and represents eight very diverse transit providers, from trains to buses to a ferry line, each with different ridership, needs, marketing expertise, and expectations.
We designed a campaign that rolled out in phases through 2021. The overall goal was to direct people to the website, TransitTogether.org, for information on using each of the transit systems—and connecting among them.
Our messages encouraged Greater Portland residents to get out of their cars and use public transit, thereby saving time and money on driving and parking, while helping reduce our collective carbon footprint—an issue of vital concern for younger people, in particular.
We created a highly legible logo, featuring the major transit modes and including the full URL, TransitTogether.org.
We worked closely with GPCOG staff to make the site more dynamic and user-friendly, and continually updated it as attitudes about traveling together shifted during the pandemic for consumers.
We worked with GPCOG’s in-house videographer to produce introductory videos for the website and digital ads showing how robust and wide-reaching the southern Maine transit network is. They featured actual riders and images from the various transit providers.
Later videos were centered around a song (“All Aboard!”) that we wrote and produced with local musicians. The musical motif was adapted for :60 radio, :30 TV, and :15 pre-roll spots.
- Paid Media
We placed the following media in the Greater Portland area, with the goal of driving former and new transit users to the website:
Digital ads on Facebook and Instagram, and pre-roll video, targeting the most highly qualified audiences: residents and tourists most likely to be interested in public transit, e.g., daily drivers and people who care about the environment. We also employed website retargeting to continue messaging interested audiences over time, directing them back to the website;
Radio and TV spots on a variety of stations;
Signage on buses in the area (Greater Portland Metro and Lakes Region Explorer); andPrint ads in local newspapers such as The Forecaster, as well as Amjambo Africa!, a free newspaper serving Maine’s immigrant population.
Creative was centered around a song (“All Aboard!”), that we wrote and produced, which was filmed with live talent and images from the various transit providers. The video was used on the website and throughout social media, and adapted for :60 radio, :30 TV, and :15 pre-roll spots.
The client, GPCOG, has judged the campaign an important element in its plans to rebuild ridership. In a year when pandemic realities and responses have fluctuated, the eight individual transit systems are pleased to see continuing growth in usage of the services they provide.
Our media campaign generated a total of 4,286,767 impressions and the digital ads generated almost 35,000 pageviews on the website, with an average of two pages per session—indicating excellent engagement.
In an August 2021 report by the Federal Transit Administration, TransitTogether was cited as one of the country’s most effective ridership campaigns. “One of the most effective spots highlights transit mechanics, bus drivers and office workers reminding people they can save money, help the environment, and beat the traffic by getting out of their cars and taking transit.”