Orange County Transportation Authority Issues RFP For Communications Plan

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) was formed in June 1991 to address ongoing transportation needs in Orange County. The concept behind OCTA was to create one agency to develop and implement transportation programs designed to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. OCTA’s countywide bus system operates 58 routes, including local fixed route, community routes, intracounty express, intercounty express, and Stationlink Metrolink rail feeder service.

The goal of the OC Bus Public Awareness and Communication Program is to retain existing customers, as well as to increase overall ridership through increased customer trips and induced trial usage among non-riders. OCTA is looking for a firm to develop marketing campaigns to target existing riders and new customers for more frequent and trial use, and develop an innovative approach to generate interest. OCTA is looking for a firm with proven experience with the following:

▪ Strategic marketing plan development

▪ Marketing and digital marketing campaign development; email management and optimization; social media and mobile marketing strategy development, implementation and optimization

▪ Online and traditional media planning, buying, and optimization

▪ Ethnic marketing and translation

▪ Print and digital creative development, design/copywriting, and production

▪ Market/customer research, segmentation study, online survey design, implementation, and reporting

▪ Photography, collateral production, printing, distribution, specialty printing, and other promotional items as required


Ridership Trends: 

Annual ridership has declined by more than 50% since 2008. The largest decline occurred as a result of an extensive service reduction in March 2010 due to the recession. In 2011 and 2012, ridership remained virtually flat. In 2013, bus ridership was down compared to 2012, which was partially attributed to a February 2013 bus fare increase. The majority of ridership loss occurred within the local route category, mainly in the previously high-ridership routes that travelled through the core service area in cities including Santa Ana, Anaheim, Garden Grove, and others.

In early 2016, OCTA launched OC Bus 360°, an initiative to improve how OCTA delivers bus service from all aspects. Resources were reallocated to improve frequency of core routes and reduce services on the routes with lower demand. In addition, OCTA launched a mobile ticketing application (app) and OC Flex, a microtransit service, and conducted extensive marketing programs to encourage trial usage and retention. Like most transit operations in California, however, ridership has continued to decline. 

Challenges from external factors that impact ridership are outlined in research from the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Between 2000 and 2015, many people bought cars and the number of households without cars dropped by 30%. This trend encourages people to drive more and ride transit less.

OCTA is currently planning a five-year program to further enhance OC Bus and its ridership from many aspects including route/scheduling improvements, operation quality assurance, passenger amenity enhancement, fare and pass program incentivization, and targeted marketing and retention programs, etc.

Customer and Market Insights:

The 2018 OC Bus On-Board survey revealed key demographic1 factors of OC Bus customers. Most of the OC Bus customers are Hispanic or Latino (62%) with a household income below $30,000 (61%). One-third is comprised of people aged 13-24 and more than 50% are between 25 and 59. According to the 2014 Bus Customer Satisfaction Survey, more than half of riders take the bus to work, followed by college (13%), shopping (8%), personal errands (8%), and doctor appointments (7%).

Based on the current customer profile and to ensure cost-effectiveness, marketing programs and campaigns will be designed to retain current customers and target high-propensity segments such as Hispanics, Vietnamese, students, commuters, and those with a household income below $35,000 with grassroots outreach and promotions. To further understand the potential size of the high-propensity market segments, an analysis was conducted utilizing market data provided by Claritas2 that shows the population/household numbers of OCTA’s primary target groups by city.

Scope of Work:


• Create and implement customer retention programs to enhance OC Bus customer loyalty and riding frequency.

• Design and conduct grassroots marketing and outreach programs to educate customers about how to ride and the benefits of riding OC Bus.

• Promote special fare/pass programs and core/improved routes to retain current riders and attract new customers.

• Strategically select and target high-propensity market segments with cost-effective marketing programs.

• Support OCTA’s ridership initiatives through strategic marketing and communications.

• Pivot when needed to accommodate new and different directions.


OCTA currently has special programs for youth, students, employers, and seniors with a strong online communications infrastructure to maintain and facilitate these programs and provide an effective platform for dissemination of bus information and promotions. Riding the bus remains affordable with competitive pricing options that include paying as you go ($2 per boarding, $5 for an onboard day pass, or $4.50 when purchasing via OC Bus mobile app) or purchasing a multi-day pass for cost savings. In addition, OCTA’s strong retail pass network provides customers easy access to purchasing passes at all Orange County Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions, and Northgate (Hispanic) markets.

• Current OC Bus Customers A quote from well-known customer service and customer experience advocate, Bill Quiseng, encourages organizations to “work as hard to keep a customer as you do to find a new one.” Other statistics also indicate that winning a customer is good for business, but keeping one is even better:

o It is six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing one.

o The probability of selling to an existing customer is up to 14 times higher than the probability of selling to a new customer. – Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance.

o If satisfied by the customer experience, 73% of consumers will recommend a brand to others, and 46% say they will trust that brand’s products and services above all others. – SDL Global CX Wakeup Call Report.

According to the 2014 Customer Satisfaction Survey, 30% of respondents were relatively new to the bus service, with less than one year of ridership. More than onethird of respondents have used the bus service for at least seven years. To retain new customers and reward long-time users, OCTA will develop and implement customer loyalty programs to strengthen customer relations and retention. In the past, technology barriers made such programs prohibitive. New advances have made customer loyalty programs more feasible to implement. Such programs are proposed in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21 Budget Work Plan.

• People who live/work within a quarter mile of OC Bus routes that match the following criteria

o Hispanics 

o Asians 

o Household income below $30,000

According to the Pew Research Center, while there are few racial and ethnic differences in public transit use among non-urban residents, there are substantial differences when looking at only those living in urban areas. Among urban residents, 34% of blacks and 27% of Hispanics report taking public transit daily or weekly, compared with only 14% of whites. According to 2018 United State (U.S.) Census data, the population of Orange County is about 35% Hispanic and about 21% Asian. Both groups are expected to increase in number. 

In addition, foreign-born urban residents are more likely than urban dwellers born in the U.S. to regularly use public transportation (38% vs. 18%); 29% of Orange County’s population was born outside of the U.S. According to OCTA’s 2018 OC Bus Onboard Intercept Survey, approximately 61% of OC Bus customers are Hispanic and 12% are Asian.

While the same marketing strategies can be applied to both Hispanic and Asian markets, it is essential to conduct marketing outreach in the preferred language of the targeted customers and to develop culturally relevant campaigns that go beyond language. Most importantly, marketing tactics and messages must be tailored to match the ways ethnic and lower-income groups consume media and receive information. For example, marketing tactics could be more grassroots and personal to help overcome language barriers and fear of changing behaviors. An enhanced, refreshed and expanded new in-person travel training program is proposed in the FY 2020-21 Budget Work Plan.

As the demographics and communication behaviors in Orange County residents continue to evolve, marketing OC Bus service is becoming increasingly complex. In order to address changes and grow ridership, new concepts for current customer retention need to be developed alongside targeted campaigns to attract prospective riders. In an effort to address these changes and implement a comprehensive OC Bus Marketing Program, OCTA is planning to retain a full-service firm (Consultant) to perform various marketing activities. Those proposing as the prime Consultant on this RFP are encouraged to subcontract tasks, which are outside of their expertise. When providing a list of service subcontractors, please provide a minimum of two (2) firms for each of the service categories subcontracted. Firms should have knowledge and be able to act as a prime Consultant in each of the following areas:

▪ Integrated, Strategic Marketing Plan Development A comprehensive and overarching plan should be developed to serve as a blueprint for the contractual period of time. The plan should be well thought-out and positioned to guide all marketing efforts to be cohesive and effective in achieving the organizational goals.

▪ Marketing & Digital Marketing Campaign Development, Management, and Optimization Each campaign should include, but not be limited to, the following components to aid in driving traffic, building brand awareness, and increase ridership and sales: − Campaign goals development and effectiveness tracking − Identifying target audiences and providing insight to customer behavior − Developing key campaign messaging and potential offers for campaign success − Developing strategy for reaching and engaging target audiences − Developing mixed media campaign consisting of traditional and online media

▪ Email, Social Media, and Mobile Marketing Strategy Development, Implementation, and Optimization Research, develop, and propose new and innovative digital marketing strategies and tactics through email, social media, and/or mobile to help OCTA retain current customers and acquire new customers. Execute a successful agile marketing plan to improve performance and Return on Investment (ROI). Provide systematic solution to implement, manage, and optimize social media platforms, as well as analytics to maximize public interaction and engagement.

▪ Online and Traditional Media Planning, Buying, and Optimization Understand where target audiences live online and offline, develop a flexible and high-quality media plan for each campaign to include targeting endemic and broad reach sites/media, as well as niche media/sites with loyal and passionate followings to engage potential customers in a clutter-free, relevant environment. Online media buying and optimization systems and technology are also required to provide realtime analytics data for refining campaign and discover insights to maximize ROI. In addition to this contract, OCTA has some reserved funds for direct media buys.

▪ Ethnic Marketing and Translation (Hispanic and Asian) Research, develop, and implement marketing programs targeting specific ethnic markets in Orange County. Develop media plans that understand where ethnic target audiences live online and offline to meet ridership and sales goals. Provide translation services for target markets, to include Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Farsi, as well as other languages per the request of OCTA.

▪ Print and Digital Creative Development, Design, Copywriting, and Production Create strategic and innovative design theme and message that resonate with campaign target audiences in both online and print formats. Be able to respond quickly to execute creative development through design, copywriting, and production in a timely manner to meet the project deadlines. Firm shall have the ability to produce, deliver, or accept files from the following software:

– Adobe Creative Cloud

– Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)

– Cloud sharing to transfer large files

▪ Market and Customer Research, Segmentation Studies, Online Surveys, Implementation, and Reporting To assist marketing planning and strategy development, identify research needs to gain customer insights and market intelligent information through primary and secondary research and surveys. Use state-of-the-art techniques to design, implement, and report appropriate study/survey as needed.

▪ Photography Provide original photography services to support approved marketing plans to showcase OCTA’s products and services in a favorable and imaginative way. Photography support should include selection and management of paid models, as well as the ability to provide studio shots on seamless, interior building and/or bus shots including people and location shots showcasing various buses. Buses will either be static or moving.

▪ Printing and Fulfillment Services Various types of printing projects will require production, distribution, installation, and/or removal during the course of this contract term, based on the approved marketing plan developed. Prior to release of all projects for print, a formal estimate will be received and approved by OCTA’s Project Manager. Consultant or Consultant’s subcontractor should have the following minimum requirements:

Traditional Lithography Printing

− 1- to 6-color lithographic printing

− Digital variable data printing capability, which would include multiple areas of unique information on various sides/pages of the document

− Standard turnaround on print jobs shall be five (5) business days; maximum turn around on any one project would be no more than ten (10) business days from receipt of digital mechanical to delivery.

− Ability to turn rush jobs in 72 hours or less when needed

− Ability to print and distribute direct mail projects from door hangers, variable data in-home delivery, and USPS Every Door Direct Mail with quantities ranging from 30,000 to 120,000

− Ability to provide mail house services such as distribution of mailed direct mail print pieces, receipt and fulfillment of direct mail offers, procure mailing lists, input customer survey data (data processing)

− Ability to produce, deliver or accept files from the following software:

o Adobe Creative Cloud 

o Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)

o Cloud sharing to transfer large files

Due Date:

May 21, 2020.


Orange County Transportation Authority Contracts Administration and Materials Management 600 South Main Street, (Lobby Receptionist) Orange, California 92868 Attention: Iris Deneau, Senior Contract Administrator

ZENO Group and APCO Worldwide are relevant agencies to consider.

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