Easing a major transition


The Challenge

Change is hard. So is building support for it.

Change is hard. So is building support for it.

On October 10, 2016, MassDOT transitioned all tollbooths to an all-electronic tolling system, effectively eliminating cash transactions in Massachusetts highways. Starting in the spring of 2016, ThinkArgus worked with MassDOT to strategize, create, and execute a campaign to gain public support for the upcoming change, which was expected to create confusion among drivers and bring about a significant disruption to their daily commutes. Based on initial research, including reviews of similar projects in other states, it was clear that increasing E-ZPass adoption was key to a smooth transition into the new system. But how do you improve an adoption rate of 85% on a product that has been free for almost two decades?

Services Provided:

  • Advertising
  • Social/Cause Marketing
  • Strategic Messaging
  • Branding
  • Content
  • Digital
  • Motion Graphics/Animation
  • Communications

We knew that we had to get more people on E-ZPass. But how do you reach the holdouts?

The Solution

Make it look easy – because it is

Make it look easy – because it is

First, we had to understand why 15% of drivers had not already adopted E-ZPass. Formative research revealed that some people had privacy concerns, while others lacked bank accounts and found it difficult to participate in a debit-based program like E-ZPass. After conducting focus groups and in-person interviews, however, we discovered a much more promising target: procrastinators. A surprisingly large population simply hadn’t bothered to sign up. To reach that audience, we developed a campaign that used clever copy to drive home the message that E-ZPass made your life easier, and the transponder was free. A highly strategic media buy placed our creative online, on TV, radio, out of home, and even at highway gas pumps. As the go-live date approached, we revised the campaign to add a sense of urgency, playing off of the common anxiety of “missing out” on a good thing. All of this was executed with an understanding that our message had to engage not only the general public, but also policymakers and key influencers, whose support was crucial to the overall success of the project.

The Results

Beyond expectations

We’re proud to say that the campaign exceeded its target goal: Through a highly targeted and optimized online media buy – supported by out of home and radio – we exceeded the campaign target goal: 170,000 people signed up for E-ZPass accounts between July and October 2016, an 88% increase from the previous year. Furthermore, the highly optimized online campaign resulted in a CTR of 24% – the highest our SEM team has ever seen in the transportation category, which is typically 2.5–3.5%.

Most importantly, the campaign helped to change the tenor of the conversation, reduce anxiety among public officials and the general public, and help to build MassDOT’s credibility as an agency that is focused on the customer experience.

As part of the campaign, we created two videos for the Gas TV network, to be viewed at service stations across the state. The video below was part of the second phase of the campaign.