Assertive campaign highlights car’s disadvantages

 

Ad portrays rail as stress-free alternative to driving

 

Virgin Trains has launched a high profile marketing campaign designed around a new, more assertive approach to promoting the benefits of choosing rail over car travel. The stated aim is to “disrupt” the market in favour of public transport.

It is the first campaign a train operator has run targeting mode shift from road to rail in such a head-on uncompromising manner. It includes a TV advert showing the frustrations a job seeker could face travelling to her interview if she chose to go by car, including traffic queues on the road, a flat tyre and panic. Train travel is shown as a relaxing experience which ends with her landing the job. The potential difficulties of road travel are highlighted by a soundtrack of stressful ‘Speedcore’ music, while the train travel is set to a relaxing soundtrack of 1980s ‘New Romantic’ group Spandau Ballet.

The contrasts have been planned around research to understand the key aspects of road and rail journeys that people consider when making a decision on how to travel.

To drive behaviour change and get people to consider Virgin Trains as their preferred mode of transport, we needed to create a campaign that would be fundamentally disruptive.

“To drive behaviour change and get people to consider Virgin Trains as their preferred mode of transport, we needed to create a campaign that would be fundamentally disruptive,” Katie Knowles, marketing director at Virgin Trains West Coast, said. She added that the intention is to encourage people to reconsider the reasons for their travel choices “in a fresh, exciting way”.

The advert forms part of a wider “cheeky” and “energetic” marketing campaign covering the Virgin West Coast and East Coast franchises, which also features press, social media, out of home and radio channels. It is the first campaign designed by Virgin Trains’ new lead creative agency Anomaly, which was selected in February.

It is understood that the change of marketing approach partly reflects objectives in Virgin Trains East Coast’s business plan to target mode shift from road travel more directly.

While operators have made gains in winning passengers from airlines, some senior industry executives believe long distance franchises have made less progress in attracting car drivers. They argue that, to date, large increases in off-peak travel are likely to have been driven due to promotional campaigns which encourage new journeys to attractions, rather than modal shift.

 

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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