Kitsap Transit "We Are Kitsap. We Can Do This" - Ride Safe During COVID-19 Campaign

Target Audience: The target audience lives in urban and rural parts of Kitsap County, including three key segments – Commuters, who were starting to return to worksites as vaccinations ramped up; Living My Life, those for whom transit is the primary means of getting around; and Partners, staff at our partner (public, non-profit and private) organizations who share KT's goals in providing a safe, clean environment and critical services. Audience perceptions and motivators were identified and quantified in a 2020 survey, especially those of former riders who stopped using KT due to COVID. If the audience became aware of KT's COVID-19 safety measures, KT expected it would boost confidence in KT's services as pandemic restrictions eased and attract new and former riders.

Strategy Objective:KT's strategy was to surprise and woo the audience, using humor to show understanding and connection. The video spots leveraged "only in Kitsap" community traits to create local, exaggerated characters in familiar settings and situations. While the characters are funny, they're also relatable humans living their lives amid the stress, boredom and frustration of a pandemic. KT partnered with Bremerton Community Theatre, which was closed due to COVID restrictions, to supply actors, costumes and props for the spots. To reach as many residents as possible, KT placed the video spots on YouTube, Facebook and cable TV. KT also drove traffic to the spots with an e-mail blast, social-media posts, public relations and exterior bus ads it created and installed on more than 40 buses.

Situation Challenge: In January 2021, KT's average weekday ridership on its buses and ferries was down 74 percent over the year. Fear of catching COVID on transit remained high. At its own expense, KT planned to install ultraviolet (UV) light air scrubbers by the spring on its buses and ferries, the same technology used in hospitals. As vaccines became available, major employers talked about possibly reopening offices by summer. KT needed to communicate safety improvements that could restore public confidence in using transit to get to work, run errands and recreate. KT was competing for the audience's attention in a highly fragmented media ecosystem. A devastating pandemic that sharply undermined confidence in transit called for a bold response.

Results Impact: The campaign achieved more than 2.8 million impressions across all media, including 1.3 million from exterior bus ads; 971,867 paid impressions on cable TV; and 366,041 paid and organic impressions on YouTube. Kitsap County has approximately 277,700 residents. On Facebook and YouTube, the 18-34 age group watched the videos the most; this age group has the highest COVID-19 case rate in Kitsap. The placement on Univision and closed captioning in Spanish on YouTube, Facebook and cable ensured the message could reach a population disproportionately impacted by COVID. By September 2021, ridership on KT buses and ferries grew 68 percent from January. While the state's lifting of capacity limits explains some of the increase, the campaign's role in boosting confidence in transit can't be ignored.

Why Submit: KT's "We Are Kitsap" campaign deserves an AdWheel Award for many reasons: It was grounded in strong audience research and effectively communicated in a highly inclusive, friendly way how KT continues its mission of providing safe transportation choices. With humor and optimism, it rallied the local community – including two dozen theatre actors who volunteered their services – to reengage fundamental COVID-19 prevention tactics at a time of rising backlash to COVID restrictions. KT produced cost-effective videos of exceptional quality on live sets during passenger service and carried that standard of creative excellence to its social, web and bus exterior ads. In the end, the campaign helped build trust in the safety of KT's services and increase ridership on its buses and ferries.