Via Rail says goodbye to winter driving

The company refreshes the creative approach to its "Why don't you take the train?" message.
Via Rail2

For many drivers, winter is not only when travelling gets more messy, dangerous and annoying. It’s also an occasion for Via Rail to remind them that it doesn’t have to be that way.

This year, however, the crown corporation has taken a different creative approach to its fall 2016 “Why don’t you take the train?” campaign, putting more emphasis on the physical act of saying “goodbye.” Its overriding theme has nevertheless remained the same: avoid the hazards of driving through treacherous road conditions by taking the train instead.

The latest execution includes two 15-second videos and six shorter social media spots. Each is intended to put a winter hardship in perspective. Why get caught in the inevitable stop-and-go of highway traffic? Why drive white-knuckled into a nighttime snow squall? Why dig your car out of snowbank? You needn’t do any of these things this winter, the ads hope to remind riders. The two longer spots each show a train commuter, looking warm and comfortable – gleefully waving as they pass an unfortunate soul caught on the side of the road.

Previous executions actually posed the question “Why don’t you take the train?,” whereas the latest ads use the tagline as a signature only, explains Ann Bouthillier, chief communications officer at VIA Rail Canada. “If at the beginning of this campaign we had to ask consumers why they had not considered the train as a travel option, it seems with time, contextualisation and by using strong visual demonstrations of the train’s benefits in our ads, the question has now become self-evident.”

Now in its fifth iteration, the campaign launched on New Year’s Eve, airing on the CBC’s The National and countdown special, as well as in French on Radio Canada’s Bye Bye 2017 program. It will run through the winter on pre-roll, out-of-home, digital (on French-language news outlet LaPresse+) and social media. Along major highways, contextual out-of-home signage will target riders on days when the weather is particularly bad.

Previous phases of the campaign questioned commuters’ decision not to take the train, positioning it as just another bad habit. Last winter, it featured a spot with a fox head-deep in a snowbank – a reminder of how dreadful searching for your car can be after a snowstorm.

As with last year’s effort, Cossette led on creative, with Touché on media and Quebec’s Tink on the digital execution.

Bouthillier says Via Rail wanted to extend the campaign over at least 18 months “in order to successfully question consumers’ travelling habits and evolve them.” As a brand, its main challenge is to increase consideration, she says, since Canadians are so accustomed to driving a car, even over long distances.

Via Rail has seen that consideration improve, as well as its sales, according to Bouthillier. From Jan. 1 through Jan. 12, the company saw an increase of around 15% in net bookings and close to 10% in net revenue, compared to the same period last year.