Chicago's Metra hires ad agency to help increase ridership

Posted on February 29, 2016


Chicago’s Metra Board of Directors unanimously approved a three-year, $4 million contract with Pulsar Advertising Inc. to serve as Metra’s new marketing and advertising agency of record.

Pulsar’s scope of work for Metra will include a customer segmentation study, market research, branding services, development of a strategic marketing plan and assistance implementing the plan.

“In a complete departure from its 30-year history, Metra has hired a new strategic advertising agency to revamp Metra’s marketing program. We believe that with a new approach, Metra has the potential to dramatically increase ridership,” said Metra Board Chairman Martin J. Oberman. “If successful, we will be able to meet many of Metra’s long-term financial needs and provide even better service to the metropolitan area. This is another example of how it’s a new day at Metra and I, for one, can’t wait to see what this new team comes up with.”

Pulsar is a full-service marketing agency that is nationally recognized for its work with transit agencies around the country, including the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which encompasses both the Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road. Pulsar provides a wide range of expertise in strategy, planning, account management, creative development, branding, media buying and placement and implementation of campaigns. The agency is also a certified disadvantaged business enterprise firm.

Last fall, Metra issued a request for proposals for a marketing agency to partner with the commuter railroad on reimagining its brand and support Metra’s aspirational goal of acquiring 20,000 additional weekday passenger trips. Nine proposals were received and evaluated through a competitive process, with Pulsar emerging as the highest-ranked proposer. The $4 million contract value represents an annual increase in spending over the previous five years, but an overall decrease from marketing budgets prior to 2010.

“This is a good business decision for Metra because our ability to grow ridership has a direct impact on our bottom line and our goal to keep fares down,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “Pulsar has the expertise and strategic thinking we need to be able to help us get people out of their cars and onto our trains.”

Metra estimates that every new monthly pass customer has the potential to generate an average of $1,500 in ticket sales annually. With 5,000 new customers per year, the potential net impact to Metra’s budget would be an additional $7.5 million in fare revenue.

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