Grisko | Ventra


Three public transit agencies.
One new payment method.
Millions of customers transitioned.

As Chicagoland’s public transit agencies introduced the most advanced universal fare payment system in the nation, we were there to ensure the customers’ transition journey was seamless. And we continue to do so, as we develop comprehensive campaigns to support ongoing system-wide updates and functionality advancements.

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The Challenge

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Pace Suburban Bus and Metra Commuter Rail, in partnership with Cubic Transportation Systems, launched the innovative open-fare payment system in 2013. Using contactless technology, riders could now simply tap their card or phone to board trains and buses – changing the daily routine of more than 4 million ethnically and demographically diverse commuters. All three agencies turned to Grisko to brand the new system, roll it out across all platforms and manage communications needs for system launch, transition, post-launch and beyond.

Ventra Advertising
Building the Brand

We started by building the Ventra® brand from the ground up, including developing the name. We then created a memorable logo, a compelling visual system and a friendly, conversational tone.

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Ventra website screenshot
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Ventra Website
Ventra Website
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Ventra bus stop ad

For pre-launch efforts, we partnered with CTA and Pace to conduct briefings with elected officials, community stakeholders and employees to provide education and rally support. We supported the system rollout with a targeted advertising (traditional, digital and experiential) and an event marketing campaign that saturated Chicagoland. We also initiated an ambassador outreach program that included a branded bus to introduce riders to the new card and vending machines at train stations. Additionally, Grisko developed Ventra’s social media channels to provide an educational outlet and trusted customer service platform for riders.

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Ventra App - How To

Leveraging the graphic aesthetic established in the Ventra campaign, Grisko produced a series of “Ventra App How-To” videos introducing customers to the app user experience.

Ventra Is Here

Grisko created and produced this launch video showcasing that Ventra can get you anywhere you want to be in Chicagoland.

Get Connected to Ventra - CityScape

We developed the “Get Connected” campaign to build brand trust and remind Chicagoans that Ventra is a part of the fabric of the city. The campaign used simple line drawings to illustrate how easily Ventra connects riders to all the places and experiences they love in Chicago.

Get Connected to Ventra - Sue

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As the Ventra system transition evolved, we quickly adapted to the changing needs of the riders and created a myriad of timely and effective communications strategies, targeted campaigns and nuanced audience-driven messaging. These campaigns blanketed the city with attention-grabbing, educational information, all utilizing a multi-channeled and strategic media plan. We also produced a series of how-to videos to help customers navigate the new system. In addition, we planned and staffed dozens of community outreach events and provided in-station customer support until all Chicagoans were transitioned to the new system.

Ventra Retail

In an effort to increase retail commerce, Grisko produced this radio spot to outline the accessibility of reloading cards at retail locations.

From Here To There

This radio spot was produced for the Ventra launch campaign. It introduces the brand by showcasing how to use the card and where it can take you.

Keep Us Moving

This spot was produced to ensure riders where aware that Ventra Cards expire and provide steps to get a new Card.

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Technical issues contributed to a tumultuous transition, but Grisko was nimble to react. The “Get Connected” campaign was developed to increase brand trust and remind customers that Ventra is a part of the fabric of the city, connecting riders to the places and experiences they love in Chicago.

And when the Ventra App launched, we developed the “3D” multimedia-integrated campaign that promoted the new app by showcasing how elements of riders’ transit experience, like vending machines and tickets, now existed on their smartphones. We leveraged media channels that targeted riders throughout their day and along their commute to educate riders about the benefits, features and functionality.

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Ventra 2.0

As the first Ventra Cards issued at launch began to expire in December 2017, we were tasked with launching an education and awareness campaign to inform riders of upcoming changes and how to replace their Card. As a vital part of Chicagoans’ daily commute, it was imperative riders knew exactly what steps to take so they would never miss a ride.

We began by creating a fresh, modern look for the Ventra Card to usher in the new generation of Cards. The new Ventra Card was the inspiration behind a strategic marketing campaign that elevated the new design and transformed it into some of Chicago’s most iconic landmarks. Diverse media tactics were tailored to reach users where they would be most engaged—both during their commute and throughout their day.

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In just four months, we introduced Ventra to Chicago and helped the CTA achieve a 70 percent adoption rate – an average of more than one million fare card taps a day.

Through the strategic “Get Connected” campaign, Grisko was able to increase confidence in the Ventra System. Positive social sentiment rose 15 percent among brand followers, Twitter followers increased by 13 percent and website traffic increased in two targeted critical areas.

The Ventra App launch was a success, receiving praise from riders and media alike. There were more than 300,000 downloads within the first three months, and in-app sales accounted for millions of dollars in revenue – triple their combined 3-month goal. And in less than two years, the Ventra App was downloaded more than 2 million times accounting for over $250 million fares purchased. Proving it’s an integral part of Chicaogan’s transit experience.

Grisko remains the agency of record for Ventra and continues to support the brand as it debuts new features and functionality.

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Moving people to change the way they pay for transit is no easy task, but Grisko helped us meet the challenge by creating a memorable brand with a simple, clear and consistent message that helped Chicago understand and adopt this next generation fare payment system.

Matthew Cole, Executive Vice President, Strategy & Business Development, Cubic Transportation Systems

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The Ventra App enhances the convenience for customers that a modern fare payment system provides by essentially putting a Ventra vending machine in customers’ pockets. Grisko has been a critical partner in developing smart, informative and consistent branding for Ventra that clearly communicates the benefits of Ventra and the Ventra App to CTA, Metra and Pace customers.

Michael Gwinn, CTA Director of Revenue and Fare Systems

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Economic Impact Payments Project

Echoes & Reflections

American Heart Association


Commonwealth LNG

Loop Link

Police Accountability Task Force

Chicago Police Memorial Foundation

WBEZ Chicago

The Field Museum