Wednesday, 31 July 2013

the pimped car in front of you is a Skoda

Apparently this ad came out last year but I only saw it for the first time the other day.

Not only did I like it but I actually remembered what is was for - which is a great result for any brand. However the one thing that slightly confused me was the whole 'Pimp my Ride' idea for a car that Skoda says "strikes the perfect balance between on road performance, family orientated practicality and rugged 4x4 styling".


So the brand has used a show (and a rapper) that is definitely not targeted at the family market to advertise a car that is definitely targeted at the family market.

A little strange surely?

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

what have pitching and maternity wards got in common?

Over the last couple of weeks I've been involved in a pitch for a sizeable bus project as well as having a tour of the new maternity ward at my local hospital.

Quite unrelated you might suggest, and until I had undertaken both activities, I would have agreed with you. However what I found out is that delivering babies and generating ideas in competition with other agencies have one unique thing in common - balance.

Apparently if newborn babies are slightly too cold they get all sleepy and subsequently don't want to feed, likewise if they get too warm they get all sleepy and don't want to feed either. Either way it's a fine line and as a result the ward is kept at a specific optimum temperature to keep them hungry.

And like temperature control, pitching is a fine line. You're competing for the work against other agencies so you want your work to be different enough to stand out but not different enough so that you stand out for the wrong reasons. Do you go cautious and not do anything wrong or go for the kill and create something adventurous?

I guess there are a number of variables - the client, the people you are presenting to, who has the final decision, the psyche of the agency etc and is something that has to be decided on an individual basis.

Whatever way you look at it, winning or losing a pitch can be a fine line.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

designer of the Virgin Pendolino talks planes and trains

Paul Priestman, talks about the passenger experience and what rail can do to catch up with the aviation industry.

Passenger experience today rules supreme in aviation. I remember the first project we did for an airline. In the late nineties, we designed the first lie flat seat for Virgin Atlantic. It might sound standard now – albeit only for Business and First Class passengers – but at the time, it was a great step forward in improving the passenger experience. And looking back, we see the impact it has had on the industry. It was a real catalyst for change.

The first two airlines to offer lie flat seats were British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Where competition between airlines had previously been just on price, it was now about comfort, and which airline offered the best passenger experience. Other airlines caught on and cabin interiors are now one of the main tools that airlines use to differentiate themselves.

Arguably, there is less competition in rail, which – in the UK at least – consists mostly of single franchises running on particular lines. However, I would argue that the real competition lies with other modes of transport, particularly with car travel and short haul air travel.

As the environment and reducing carbon emissions continues to be a priority for governments at home and abroad, creating an attractive and comfortable rail offering to get passengers out of their cars and out of the air must become paramount for rail operators.

Some countries already offer a superior passenger experience on trains. We’ve been working in China for a few years now where the main high-speed trains include fully lie-flat rotating seats, so that passengers can always face the direction of travel. Carriages also include hot water dispensers so that passengers have access to tea. Whilst these may seem like small details, they are crucial to making passengers feel more comfortable.

In 2010, we designed a concept high-speed train to offer a vision of what the future of high-speed rail could look like in the UK. Our design included private berths in second class, which could be booked for business meetings or for families traveling together.

The First Class carriage stood out from your run of the mill First Class carriages today and included a luxurious bar, viewing platform and sofas more reminiscent of a high-end lounge. If we are going to offer a First Class product on rail, then it needs to be really First Class. If we’re going to lure passengers out of their cars – a comfortable, private environment – let’s offer them more than the alternative.

We also need to look at the ways in which the airline industry is embracing technology as part of the passenger experience. While the majority of rail passengers do have their own devices, whether tablets or mobile phones, there should be an opportunity for better integration of these within the fabric of trains, whether as a source of entertainment or information.

And it’s not just long journeys that could benefit from a better passenger experience. As designers across all modes of public transport, we regularly work on airport train services, both inter-terminal – such as Gatwick, which we designed a couple of years ago – or airport to city. The latter is one area that could hugely benefit from more design thinking. While it’s true that services like the Heathrow Express or the Arlanda Express in Stockholm, which is often lauded as one of the best airrail services in the world, offer a comfortable journey, we need to look at what passengers need and how to make the best use of time on that journey.

For business passengers, airrail services are often the last chance to connect to their e-mails before a flight, or upon landing, the first opportunity to get in touch with their office. Our LoungeLink concept included individual working stations with adjustable privacy screens that would enable passengers to maximise their time in transit. The concept also included check in stations, all with a view to offering a stress free travel experience from home to destination.

While the airline industry is by no means perfect, airlines have for the most part understood the value of offering passengers a superior interior product to stay competitive. In the UK, only Virgin, for whom we designed the Pendolino, sells an experience, rather than tickets. If we’re going to invest in new high-speed rail systems around the world, it’s imperative that the experience of those trains is the very best that it can be so that passengers actually use them.

This article appeared in

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Go-Ahead fall foul of The Plain English Campaign

Go-Ahead in London has recently been criticised for the language it used in some job adverts.

The ads, for a conductor on the new Boris bus, used phrases such as 'passenger assistant', 'good face to face communicator' and 'customer facing experience' in the body copy - and were summed up by the The Plain English Campaign as 'gobbledegook'.

A spokesman for The Campaign suggested "Wanted - helpful bus conductor" would seem a lot clearer.

For me 'gobbledegook' is taking things a little too far, although I agree for this particular job role that the wording could have been phrased a little differently.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with trying to sell the role you are advertising, there are some cases when this approach is more appropriate than others.

CEO yes, bus conductor possibly not.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

the ads that are more than just ads

For most people ads serve little or no purpose in their lives - never asked for them, don't want them.

Which is why producing effective advertising is so difficult. But with a little creative help from the mediums we use, effective advertising can get one step closer.

Industry giant IBM have done exactly that to promote their 'Smart ideas for Smarter Cities' initiative. Effectively they have created 'ads with a purpose' - ads that help people go about their daily lives in the city.

Ads that make life a little easier.

Nice to see a leading brand thinking like a challenger one. You can find out more about the campaign here.