Sound Transit's ad campaign draws fire - $1.1 million: Critics
see it as effort to buff tarnished
David Quigg; The News Tribune
Posted 7/18/02 -
Sound Transit budgeted $581,250 for advertising and marketing
year. More than half of it went unspent. This year,
under a new
communications plan, the three-county agency expects to spend $1.1
million - $800,000 of it to publicize Sound Transit, in general,
mix of transportation ventures.
It's not the spending spike itself that concerns Dave Enslow, a
Transit board member, Sumner city councilman and candidate for
County Council. He just questions the type of ads the
agency is buying.
"I think the advertising needs to be focused on what can
do for you, as opposed to this warm and fuzzy kind of stuff,"
said of a campaign devised by Copacino Creative, an ad firm
its whimsical Seattle Mariners commercials. Enslow was
explaining his worry that certain Sound Transit ads could be
as attempts to buff the agency's budget-tarnished image, when it
occurred to him that the other side deserves to be heard.
"If you want this program justified, all you have to do is
Ilgenfritz," he said. Ilgenfritz, a former National
Service official and top aide to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, became
Transit's chief communications officer last year. He joined
months after the agency triggered its worst PR ever by admitting
underestimated by more than $1 billion what Seattle-area light
"Most of the people who know about Sound Transit know about
of the (light rail) issues," Ilgenfritz said, citing poll
helped shape his overhaul of the agency's communications strategy.
briefed board members last October on his plans for advertising.
A document prepared for that briefing described the agency's
relations challenge: "Present levels of awareness are
driven largely by
media coverage. "Although Sound Transit has been
proactive in attempting to deliver messages to the media, the
messages are not consistently being picked up in news stories.
agency therefore cannot rely on the news media alone to reach the
public." So Ilgenfritz's new communications strategy,
as detailed in
Sound Transit's 2002 budget, included the following goals:
* "Redefine Sound Transit and Re-Engage the Community."
* "'Brand' Sound Transit within the regional communications
market as a
reliable service provider."
It's the word "brand" that bothers Bob Gogerty.
He's the political
consultant who persuaded voters in Pierce, King and Snohomish
to create Sound Transit in 1996, by passing a $4 billion ballot
measure. He definitely wants the agency to use ads to keep
But he said, "Polishing the image is not going to help them.
not going to make Sound Transit a household word that people feel
about ... until they are up and running and people can see they've
Ilgenfritz would say Gogerty's critique proves his point.
from Ilgenfritz's vantage point inside the agency, Sound Transit
and running and has "done something positive." Ads
play a key role in
making sure citizens realize commuters are using Sound Transit
every day, he said.
"It's getting back to the people, letting them know what
with their money," Ilgenfritz said. Ads touting the
agency's ST Express
buses and Sounder commuter trains are needed to attract riders, he
said. King County Councilman Rob McKenna (R-Bellevue), a
light-rail critic, doesn't buy it.
"Sounder is full," he said. "So the last
thing we need to do is
encourage more people to ride it. These are image ads."
Ilgenfritz rejected that description. But he acknowledged
point about full Sounder trains sounds logical. So logical,
that Sounder officials stopped advertising, he said.
he said. "We're a start-up. We don't have an
base," he said. So Sound Transit advertises.
Quarter-page ads in the region's major Sunday newspapers. TV
traffic-report sponsorships. Public-radio sponsorships.
Radio ads on a
slew of commercial stations. "Just about everywhere
except KVI because
the board forbade us from advertising on KVI," Ilgenfritz
referring to Seattle's conservative talk-radio station.
Tim Eyman, the anti-tax activist whose latest ballot measure aims
off about 20 percent of Sound Transit's revenue, tried to get the
state's Public Disclosure Commission to stop Sound Transit's ads.
Jan. 11 letter, Eyman wrote, "Since our filing of I-776
Transit's expenditures for television, radio and print advertising
now unfair, illegal, taxpayer-funded political advertising and
stopped until I-776 is resolved by the voters in November,
A Jan. 30 reply from the PDC asked Eyman to provide evidence that
Transit's ads were something other than "advertising related
planning, construction, or operation of its systems."
Within a week, the PDC was investigating Eyman, after he confessed
surreptitiously using campaign donations to pay himself a salary.
state has taken Eyman to court. Ilgenfritz denies that Sound
ads are about politics or elections - either this November's or
future trip to the ballot, when Sound Transit would ask Pierce,
Snohomish voters to fund more projects.
David Quigg: 206-467-9845 email@example.com
'Image ad' or information for taxpayers? Critics call them
ads." But Sound Transit insists the three-county
agency's advertising -
such as the following radio spot - is geared toward attracting
and informing taxpayers:
Sound effect of a rapid heartbeat for several seconds.
ANNOUNCER: Not only have we taken thousands of drivers off
Sound effect of rapid heartbeat slowing.
ANNOUNCER: We've lowered their blood pressure. Upbeat
ANNOUNCER: We're Sound Transit and we're moving forward to
alternatives to congested freeways. Take a look at our
1999, we launched ST Express, replacing thousands of freeway car
every day. ST Express carries 500,000 riders a month on
extending from Everett to Tacoma. In 2000, we introduced
commuter rail system which connects Seattle to Tacoma.
commuters take Sounder or ST Express every workday. Dozens
projects and improvements are also under way. We've improved HOV
Constructed transit centers. And built new and expanded Park
lots. All of which is good news for your commute and your
learn how we can make your commute easier, go to soundtransit.org.
Sound Transit. Moving forward. Source: Radio script
provided by Sound
And here's the letter that was sent to the Public Disclosure
January 7th, 2002
Public Disclosure Commission
PO Box 40908
Olympia, WA 98504
Because of our filing today of Initiative 776, The Right to
Higher Vehicle Taxes, as an initiative to the people, Sound
should discontinue all television, radio, and print advertising as
expenditures now constitute taxpayer funds being used to illegally
Initiative 776 will require license tab fees for motor
light trucks to be $30 per year and will repeal motor vehicle
taxes and fees imposed on motor vehicles.
One of the excise taxes that I-776 repeals is the local
excise tax that provides 20% of the funding for Sound Transit's
multi-BILLION-dollar boondoggle light rail. Light rail is a
BILLION-dollar black hole which is sucking taxpayers dry from
Seattle. This "train to nowhere" is radically different
from the project
that was presented to voters in 1996. Voters were offered
red but were
given blue. We will be arguing throughout the campaign for
776 that taxpayers are flushing billions of taxpayer dollars down
toilet on a project that taxpayers no longer support.
Sound Transit should not be allowed to illegally spend
for a multi-MILLION-dollar political campaign opposing I-776.
filing of I-776 today, Sound Transit's expenditures for
radio, and print advertising are now unfair, illegal,
political advertising and should be stopped until the fate of
resolved by voters in November, 2002.
I ask that you to notify Sound Transit that they need to set
up, as we
have, a political action committee to raise private funds if they
to oppose I-776. I further ask that you inform them that it
to spend taxpayer dollars to oppose ballot measures which their
television, radio, and print advertising clearly does.
Finally, as of today, any taxpayer dollars illegally spent
Sound Transit, and thus to oppose I-776, should be properly
an in-kind contribution to the soon-to-be-formed NO 776 committee.
Please contact me with any questions.
Best Regards, Tim Eyman, Sponsor of I-776, and head of Permanent
Offense, a grassroots taxpayer organization
cc: Attorney General
cc: Secretary of State
Paid for by Permanent Offense · PO Box 1641
· Mukilteo · WA ·
Ph: 425-493-8707 · FAX: 425-493-1027
· email: firstname.lastname@example.org