Sign up for updates. Be part of our community.

SEPTA taps local ad agency for messaging of token replacement product, more

SEPTA has tapped a local marketing agency to help with its messaging, marketing and the rolling out of new technology and products, including SEPTA Key and the upcoming Travel Wallet.

SEPTA has awarded full-service marketing and advertising agency Swell a $2.5 million, three-year contract to be the transit authority's new advertising agency of record.

Responsible for strategy and creative services for SEPTA, Swell was part of a pool of about 14 other submissions, six of which were out of market, according to SEPTA, which underwent a valuation process that lasted about six months.

The goal for the next three years includes messaging, marketing and creative campaigns for SEPTA's new products like SEPTA Key, which rolled out earlier this year after a number of delays, and was later expanded in June to more riders.

"This is new, and there is a huge population we have to introduce this concept to," Swell partner Staci Anderson said. "Our focus is on the clarity of the message to make sure when we put this out there, there's no confusion as to what this product is going to do."

"We're thinking of how to engage with riders directly, and come up with new ways to engage riders and inform them," Swell partner Greg O'Loughlin said. "It will be informative and inspiring. That's probably the approach we're taking overall."

Swell will work on a full media campaign, including a new consumer campaign for TV, outdoor signage, print and digital.

Swell's work will also include the messaging and campaigns for future products the transit agency has in store, like its upcoming Travel Wallet feature on the SEPTA Key Card program.

"We're introducing Travel Wallet. It's our next big project — how can we get more people in the system and keep them there?," said Elizabeth Bradford, SEPTA's director of marketing advertising.

The goal is to launch the Travel Wallet early adopter program by the end of this year, similar to how the agency launched its SEPTA Key program, Bradford said.

Travel Wallet is meant to replace SEPTA's legacy tokens and other physical change and cash. Riders will be able to put money into the Travel Wallet feature and pay as they travel.

"It's just like using a token without all that heavy metal in your pocket or purse, and it's certainly much better than paying with cash," according to SEPTA's website. "The Travel Wallet will also be good to pay for daily parking at SEPTA station lots."

While the initial SEPTA Key Card program was limited to just weekly and monthly riders, the Travel Wallet feature will open it up to riders who take SEPTA more sparingly.

Changes to the iSEPTA Philly, the transit agency's lifestyle website, will also be in store. SEPTA will also be looking to add more accurate real-time information, Bradford said.

The transit agency last added cellular modems to its arsenal, providing accurate GPS information. That information will be added to SEPTA's current mobile app, Bradford said.

The partnership with SEPTA comes a year after Swell merged with creative agency Letter27, which made Swell a full-service marketing and advertising agency.

As a result of the merger, O'Loughlin's position shifted from principal and founder to founder and partner, and Anderson — owner of Letter27 — became creative director and partner.

Being chosen by SEPTA is allowing Swell to grow. The company has a core staff of about four employees, and it recently added an account manager. The company employs up to 25 workers, including freelancers and contractors, and the goal is to double that size in the short term.

"SEPTA is such an integral Philadelphia brand that is so entrenched in the culture of the city and everyday life of the city that the work is going to be really visible," Anderson said.

"It's the job of the agency to put the work out there, but it's almost like a behind-the-scenes kind of role," she said. "Eventually, as the work gets out there and the word gets out there that we are behind the work, certainly that will capture some new attention."

Media Contact:

Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing