How not to advertise transit

August 31st, 2013

avertisement

Why is this the wrong way to advertise transit? Let me count the ways:

  1. What is “METRO * PLUS”? This ad does not tell us.
  2. Seriously, point #1 is a huge enough fail that I’m going to give it two points. To reiterate, this ad does not even hint at what “METRO * PLUS” might be. Is it a cell phone plan with good uptown coverage?
  3. Assuming we know it’s some sort of transit which is already a pretty big leap for suburbanites and/or foreign students or almost anyone else who would see this ad on UC’s main campus, where the hell does the thing actually go? “Connect uptown” to what exactly? When? For whom?
  4. Assuming we’re informed enough to already know what the m+ is and where it goes, let’s think critically abut the statement: “METRO * PLUS is the smart way to connect uptown.” Why would this be so? Why would the m+ be the smart way? Is the m+ the smartest way for someone living on Ludlow to get to campus? It doesn’t go anywhere near Ludlow. That would be decidedly not smart.
    map of uptown cincinnati
    The smart way? That depends on where you are and where you’re going! For a great many people, indeed, thousands a day in uptown, the #17, #78, or #46, #31, #51, or #19¬† seem to be the smarter way to ‘connect uptown’. These routes are going where they’re going. Taking the m+ to somewhere you don’t want to go would be one of several dumb ways to get around. The m+ is the smart way to get around uptown when you’re starting somewhere near one of the stops and ending somewhere near another one of the stops at a time when the m+ is running AND when another route couldn’t serve you better. The m+ is the worst possible way to ‘connect uptown’ on the weekends(when it doesn’t run).
  5. Finally, are we relying on a minor local celebrity to sell positive associations with an abstract concept and/or set of brand colors or are we trying to tell people about a new transit service they might actually use to get to some real, specific place? It would seem SORTA had the former in mind.

I posit that the person who made and/or approved this advertisement does not themselves use transit much nor do they understand at all therefor how it works or why people would want to use it. This ad probably makes sense to someone who has a degree in marketing, and who sees it as their job to ‘promote Metro’s brand’ or some equally bland, abstract thing. This kind of person would probably be a great fit at P&G where they could work to systematically put smiling, pretty people(potentially also wearing bowties) next to bottles of shampoo or sticks of deoderant. Such products rely on brands because they’re all essentially the same and the differentiation that makes them stand out from the competition must be almost entirely fabricated.

Transit however is substantially, even enormously different in kind from it’s potential competition. Brands¬† simply do not work in such a market in the same way. When products are tremendously different, like a personal car vs. a fixed-route bus, a brand or celebrity endorsement will not be the deciding factor. The facts of either option will be. Which gets you there faster? Which is cheaper? Which is better? This kind of ad tells us absolutely nothing that will help us make a decision about how to get around.

For a transit agency this kind of marketing is just nonsense.
And SORTA just keeps churning it out.

3 responses to “How not to advertise transit”

  1. jonathan says:

    A better use of money would be to have an app so that students/riders could tell where the routes are, where the buses are and how long it will take me to get to my destination. I don’t understand why I can tell where my friends are in real time but I have no idea where the bus is if I get there just when it is supposed to leave, did it arrive early? Is it running late?

    • Nate Wessel says:

      I’m told that we can expect SORTA to release a real-time location feed in the next couple of months. It will probably be another couple months after that before a developer will be able to make that data accessible to the layperson unless there are already some open source tools that could be borrowed from another city or agency.

      But yeah, that should have been waaaay further forward in their list of priorities.

  2. Nate Wessel says:

    And then there was this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImlWvKXUX_A

    Just to clarify, the m+ goes absolutely nowhere near Cincy State. Who the hell is this ad aimed at?