What inspires us, what sticks in our heads, what keeps us moving forward. We reflect on who we are, what we do, and why we do it.


Twenty-five years ago, I was working at a global Los Angeles-based ad agency when I was asked by a research company if he was interested in bidding on work on my own for a new commuter rail company in southern California. I was going to freelance this on the side, but when I saw the size of account, I realized I would have to quit my job to do it.

I had been working on national accounts including Bank of America, and loved the idea of gaining people’s trust and convincing people to start an IRA at a time when this meant nothing to a 20- or 30-something. You drive them to a bank branch and you gain their trust. The same concept can be applied to behavioral change when it comes to transportation.

I was intrigued with the idea of helping commuter rail take hold in Los Angeles – the land of luxury automobiles and where freeways connected communities. Millions of these people had never been to a train station and didn’t even know how to take a train. The thinking then was that trains were a social program for the poor. I thought that if I can convince people to get out of their Mercedes and their Lexus and get on the train, I can convince people to do anything. However, I didn’t know what an RFP was and didn’t know how to put together a proposal. I came from the creative side and never had to write anything, he didn’t even know how to type!

After an all-night session with Space Bar Invaders, a free typing game, I went from typing five words a minute to 35.

With the proposal written (and typed!) and with two hours before the oral presentation, I realized that I needed business cards and a logo to look like I had been around for a while. I put a P in a box and tilted it and ran to a print shop (Kinko’s weren’t on every corner like they are today). That became the original Pulsar Advertising logo.

Metrolink becomes first client
I won the account and Metrolink became our first client. We were a great team and our marketing and advertising was very successful. We packed the new line launching in Riverside, then the same with other lines.

Our next client became Arlington County Commuter Services (ACCS) in northern Virginia. They were trying to brand their Metro system so people in Arlington felt that it was relevant to them. This was a pretty revolutionary idea 20+ years ago – giving people ownership of the existing transit system.

And from this, our Car-Free Diet was born. The residents of Arlington began to understand that with all of the great transportation options available to them, there was really no need to own a car.

Another new concept for a transportation agency, was this idea of more holistically working with county managers in short- and long-term planning and collaborating to develop land use policies that reflected the impact of a well designed transportation system. We had a seat at those tables along with ACCS in helping county leaders understand commuters and how they think, before making big decisions about land use. From this collaboration, Arlington’s Urban Villages emerged. These 11 Urban Villages each have shopping, restaurants, recreation, offices, homes and transportation choices all within a few blocks.

Then, the big one struck
Two years after I started Pulsar, the Northridge Earthquake struck on a Monday morning and two major freeways collapsed in Los Angeles. Suddenly, there was no way to get around. Luckily, FEMA wrote a big check to Metrolink to open a new line from central county to north county. It was expected to take a month to get up and running.

But, we got a phone call from (the late) Ray Shea, who was then Marketing Director for Southern California Regional Rail Authority (and who later became Account Planner for Pulsar) and he said, they were opening in a week and we had to provide all of the materials needed to launch the new service, by 5 p.m. Sunday night including 30,000 brochures with new maps, newspaper ads, radio ads and TV commercials. Keep in mind that most of the print shops in the area were out of commission due to the earthquake. All of their machines had to be recalibrated because of the earthquake. They finally found the one printer who could handle this job, but then we had another problem – Highway 14 was closed and it was impossible to get the brochures delivered. Most of the biggest agencies in L.A. would have been challenged to get this all done and delivered within the week, but Pulsar hired a helicopter to make the delivery. We made it happen!

This new line played a big role in helping Southern California regain mobility. It instilled a lot of confidence in Metrolink.

Philosophy of Advertising
Alberto has always told clients that advertising is really simple. If you have brothers and sisters, you know that you can convince them to do just about anything you want. Why? Because you know them better than anyone else.

A lot of the basics of marketing and advertising comes down to getting people to do things – change their behavior, buy a product, or purchase a particular service. So how do you do that? You get to know your audiences as well as you do your brothers and sisters.

At Pulsar, we work with clients who are “Doing a World of Good.” If you overcomplicate what you are trying to do, you lose perspective. If you believe in what you are doing and that it is for the greater good, the motivation and inspiration of how to sell it comes easily. That’s our philosophy. #DoAWorldOfGood

On Oct. 23, 2017, in honor of its 25th Anniversary, Pulsar begins a year-long celebration of “Doing a World of Good” by recognizing unsung heroes in the cities, counties and towns across the country and around the world. Subscribe to our blog to read about these people in our local communities. and nominate your own Doing a World of Good star or make a suggestion on our Facebook or Twitter page.

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