do these two trains ads miss the point?

In theory, advertising is simple - take a product truth or benefit and make it fun, entertaining or engaging for your target market.

Yet turning this theory into reality is immensely difficult, which, unfortunately, leads to a plethora of advertising that tries to convey the easier message of 'brand' or 'the emotional connection'. It's advertising that doesn't give the customer a real reason to buy your product over a competitor's offering.

Take these two train ads, for GWR and Northern Railway respectively...

Both are quite (well, very) similar in idea and execution, and are undoubtedly very well shot pieces of film. Top marks for production. However, what lets them down is the lack of benefit to the viewer.  In order to visit the destinations listed, why should I get your train, over and above the alternatives of the coach or my car? After all, the product being advertised is a train service.

There's no mention of frequencies, station facilities/parking (Nothern pays lip service at the end to be fair, ticket options (how about prices for family deals?), the excitement of the train, the romance of the train, ease of buying tickets online etc. Aren't these the things that would get you to change your behaviour rather than being shown where the train goes? 

In reality, both productions make great ads for tourism in their respective regions but I need convincing they make great ads for getting there by train.


  1. As the lead marketeer behind the Northern campaign I disagree with your analysis of our activities.

    The TV advert you have commented on is one of 19 marketing channels that we have live at present. Each marketing channel plays a role in passing across the relevant benefits/infomation to the customer as they are drawn into the buying process at the relevant time.

    It is not necessary or relevant for us to convey the hygiene factors (price, product) of rail travel within the TV advert when our biggest competitor, from customer insight, is not the car or bus but apathy.

    In this day it is too easy to sit at home engrossed in screen watching. Our campaign has delivered inspiration to thousands of customers across the north who have responded to the TV advert, heard the radio, interacted with Northern online, and made rail trips for great days out and advocated the experience through social.

    I'm surprised that your comments were limited to a review of one marketing channel as any marketing agency would fail in a new business pitch if that was sum of their proposal.

    Phil Gates
    Head of Brand and Business Development

    1. Hi Phil

      Apologies for the delayed response - your comment went in to our spam filter.

      Our comment was limited to the one channel because that is the only one we had seen. Viewing elements of a campaign in isolation is a scenario familiar to many customers no doubt, and for me, there needs to be a clear reason to travel by train in each one.



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