Isn’t this refreshing?

SORTA advertises accross the river!

With the understanding that public agencies rarely get positive feedback, I want to take a moment to thank SORTA for this awesome ad that I saw on the way to class today. If I had a nickel for the number of times I’ve overheard someone (in Ohio) asking their friend how they can get to the airport only to hear ‘taxi’ as the reply1, I’d have a fist full of nickels which is still not enough to take a taxi to the airport. It’ll buy me a trip on the 2X though($2), which if I may add to the ad, has lovely plush seats that are much nicer than a dirty taxi anyway :-)

Hooray for inter-agency advertising!

Are these sorts of ads anywhere else? I’ve only seen them on UC’s campus, though I’d like to think XU, Cincy State, and (dare I dream) even some of the neigborhood business districts have advertising with their own localized, practical and relevant suggestions.

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  1. I always interject at this point.
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Advertising: TANK is doing it right

I was in the airport last night on a late flight from DC and behold: What do I see greeting me unavoidably on my way down the escalator toward baggage claim? A giant sign telling me I can take transit to downtown for only $2.00.

It changed to another advertisement before I could calm my trembling heart and reach for the camera phone but I hung around for another minute and caught a picture of this:

southbank shuttle airport advertisement

A few steps further found me walking below this sign:

public transit ahead

And to my right, a kiosk toward which I quickly scampered

TANK transit kiosk at the airport

The kiosk is basically a big fancy machine that shows you a PDF of the 2X schedule. Normally I don’t approve of such complicated things, favouring instead a simple rack of paper schedules, but I have to say that this thing was really attractive, easy to use, and perfectly informative.

2x schedule kiosk

It gave you the times, the prices, the route map; it gave you everything you would need to just go outside and take transit right now.

That is perfectly informative.

That is perfectly informative.

But where exactly, you might ask, should you “just go outside?” Can it be that easy? Boom! The stop is right out that door.¬† Go. Now. Just do it. You’re so close!

CVG transit to downtown sign

This applause might sound pretty obvious, but many of the most important routes in the city lack this sort of pointed, direct, this-is-what-transit-does kind of advertising. I’d like to see more of this, particularly for routes that aren’t aimed narrowly at tourists(which is to say: almost all of them).

TANK wins 3 points for clear and effective communication and pulls into the lead.

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Posted in: Ads | Simplicity
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A critical review of bus shelter ads

Bus shelter ads are sort of a window into the soul of a region and a transit agency. They show quite clearly:

  1. What the transit agency is saying; after all, since they get a discount on their own space and have direct access, they use it more.
  2. The type of people who use the system, as seen by the advertisers, and what’s important to them.
  3. The aspirations of people who use the system, again, as perceived by the advertisers.
  4. What the transit agency is willing to tolerate. Where they see themselves standing in the big scheme of things. Self-confidence and financial surety.

I’m thinking this might become sort of a regular thing. Here are the first few shelter ads:

Bus shelter ad

Bus shelter ad from the ‘go-metro’ campaign across from P&G on Fifth.

This one’s from SORTA. It’s part of the ‘Go-Metro’ campaign, an effort to normalize riding the bus by showing middle and upper-middle class people along with their reason for using transit. Why should you use transit? Because these people do, and look how like you they are! Or at least how like you aspire to be. This actually isn’t too bad, as long as it’s accompanied by other marketing efforts. Where does transit go? When does it run? Is it actually useful where and when you need it to be? These are essential questions that aren’t answered by this ad. But it doesn’t need to answer them as long as it’s companions will. This sort of marketing is in line with marketing for anything else, if a bit less subtle. Why should you buy an i-widget? ’cause that guy in the commercial has one and look how cute and successful he is! This stuff (generally)works to get people to be open to your product if not actively pursuing it. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this (I really wish it weren’t) only slightly self deprecating bus ad.

Bus shelter advert for the #38X

Bus shelter advertisement for the #38X on west 9th St between Plum and Elm

Now this is what I get excited about: An ad that¬† really tells you something! “What is the 38X? you ask. Why, let me tell you. It goes from the Glenway Crossing park and ride directly to UC and uptown.” This is a great companion to the ad above. Hit ’em from both sides. You got your soft aspirational appeal, and here you have the kicker. Your trip to uptown from the west side just got one connection shorter. Notice that the ad is on the west side of Downtown. It should be right where people who are making a now unnecessary transfer downtown might pass by. But it isn’t quite. The only express bus from the Glenway Crossing Transit Center to Downtown has it’s closest stop to this location at 9th and Vine more than two blocks away. And of course anyone going to uptown would have got off earlier at Government Square or somewhere on Main Street to transfer. So who is going to see this ad? I’m not quite sure. It’s a pretty specific message, so I would hope the targeting would be rock solid. I’ve seen this a few other places(uptown, I think), so this location may be an outlier.

Bus shelter ad for mobile service

Bus shelter ad for AT&T mobile service near Xavier at the intersection of the #4 and #51.

Here’s an interesting one! AT&T’s 4GLTE(whatever that is) now covers almost all of the region. How the region is defined is what’s interesting to me. The map shows only a very few things. In order of prominence:

I won’t dispute the river. That should be on every Cincinnati map. Are the rest of these things important to you? Are they important to people waiting for the bus? Does transit even go to Hamilton? Why are these specific cities mentioned? It’s a plainly suburban map, directed at people who live in or near the suburban cities mentioned and who are used to navigating by car on the highway. The ad is less directed at transit users, more at the people in cars passing through the intersection and waiting at the light on Dana going east. Transit is advertising with it’s infrastructure a view of the region that is, really, antagonistic toward an understanding and acceptance of transit. It’s also taking money from the advertiser, ostensibly to pay for transit itself. Complicated.

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Posted in: Ads | Priorities
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