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Phoenix-based Valley Metro (Metro) is getting the word out to riders and potential riders by entertaining them with music videos that contain valuable how-to information on riding the system's bus and light rail services.
The "Valley Metro Notes" campaign, launched in November, consists of six local bands that have written and recorded 11 original songs about how to use public transportation. Metro is releasing the songs one at a time through fall 2011. The fifth video launched in March. Participating local bands are: Black Carl, Captain Squeegee, Elvis Before Noon, Mills End, Peachcake and What Laura Says.
The songs are set to animated video and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at www.ValleyMetro.org/Notes.
Engaging the public
Heidi Gracie, brand marketing and customer experience manager, says that the idea for the campaign came from the public. Valley Metro surveyed riders, non-riders, and people who used to ride transit, but don't anymore, in focus groups and through an annual rider satisfaction survey.
"We tried to understand the number one barrier to use and what would make it easier for them to ride transit," she explains.
In addition, the agency checked in with its customer service line, which gets 6,000 to 8,000 calls a day, says Mario Diaz, chief marketing officer.
"The focus groups were very direct about how we communicate, why they don't ride and how we should communicate with them. They told us, 'Talk to us in a fun and engaging way. Don't be stuffy about it, and sound like a public agency," he says.
Participants, Diaz adds, said they wanted to have information available wherever they were, 24-7.
The campaign is geared toward high school, college and above, with the caveat of not alienating any demographic, Gracie says.
"When people start to make decisions for themselves in life is where we'd like to be for them, so they don't need a car to get around," she says. "They can still have a varied and exciting life and use transit to get to wherever they need or want to go."
Gracie points out that the illustrations of the characters in the videos are not "Disney-eque or Sponge-Bob. They're a bit more timeless."
Metro chose the illustrator, AJ Bell, from its in-house ad agency, R&R Partners, for his hand-drawn watercolors and brought them into computerized bus images, to capture the look and feel of Phoenix, with the lighting, colors and the style of the characters.
Also important, Diaz notes, is gearing the message to people that don't use the system. The top reason they weren't taking transit was fear of the unknown, which can be intimidating.
"These animated videos with lyrics are painting the experience before one even has it," Gracie adds. "You have that familiarity, making it more comfortable to try."