Bakersfield's public bus system took the cheap route last year when putting out word on its annual report. It relied mostly on email and ended up spending about $3,000 on the whole campaign.

How things have changed. This year, Golden Empire Transit District spent about $25,000 on a much slicker campaign that consists of an interactive online presentation and talking mailers that cost $6.65 each.

GET recently mailed out the cards to 300 local elected, community and business leaders. They feature the voice of GET CEO Karen King explaining the benefits of upcoming route and schedule changes designed to save $1 million, or about 4 percent of the agency's 2012-13 budget.

The idea behind this year's marketing campaign was two-fold, said GET's marketing and business development manager, Gina Hayden: promote awareness of the bus system changes and drive traffic to the interactive presentation on the agency's website,

"We were looking for something that would get attention but at the same time was not exorbitantly expensive. And so we came up with this," Hayden said Monday.

GET Chairman Howard Silver said the campaign was worth the expense. It saved money that would have been spent publishing a glossy annual report while also educating decision-makers about local transportation.

"We need to get people educated about the resources that are available to them," he said.

Details on past years' annual report marketing expenditures were not immediately available Monday. But Hayden said such efforts have included technological experiments such as mailing out information-laden computer flash drives.

Acknowledging that many of those who received the talking cards may not actually ride the bus, Hayden said they may have employees or constituents who do.

"Even though you're not an actual (GET bus) user, you may have an interest in understanding what we're doing and the service we're providing," she said.

The bulk of the money for the marketing campaign -- $21,000 -- went toward the interactive report, which was designed by Bakersfield web design and advertising agency The Marcom Group. The owner of the company could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Hayden said GET has another 200 talking mailers it plans to deliver at various functions including the county fair.

GET recently won final approval of the route and schedule changes set to take effect Oct. 7. They will increase the frequency of some routes and eliminate others with the goal of improving service on GET's most popular lines.