Ads which actually put you off buying the product
This post has been delayed and delayed while I searched the web fruitlessly for images from the last few Connex advertising campaigns. Wouldn’t you know, they’re not to be found. Presumably the expensive advertising company knows having these available anywhere would only encourage blog snark. Well, too bad. Here’s an excerpt from the latest campaign, Don’t Hold Others Back. And here is a picture of the grim reality. (This is actually quite good, compared to some of the peak hour trains I’ve taken.)
When Melbourne’s public transport system was privatised, what did the new owners do to make it more efficient, lean and mean than the old Government service? Besides sacking most of the station staff, that is? Why, they went out and found the slickest, most smartarse advertising company they could. (With a partner who was also the Connex Melbourne chairman). Ah, that’s private efficiency for you. Jobs for the private mates, none of your Government or Union mates. Totally different.
The Sheena Easton “My baby takes the Morning Train” ad was simply tasteless and irritating in the way most ads are, but other Connex ads infuriate all the more because they highlight the very gaps in service on which they should be spending money, instead of on all this spin. There’s one series with gorgeous young things reclining in bed, etcetera, with “we know where you’d rather wait”. For non-melburnians, this means that Connex provides a SMS service so that if your train’s cancelled, you can theoretically spend another ten minutes in bed instead of on the platform in the cold wind with someone who’s forgotten their medication.
This, of course, assumes (wrongly) that Connex can provide SMSs in an accurate and timely fashion- rather like, you know, trains. It also highlights the fact that they cancel trains all the time. What about fixing the actual transport system instead of giving SMS addicts another excuse to obsess over their phones?
Then there’s the series of poster ads, in 70s bulbous typescript, aimed at fare evaders. You know the ones: “Fare evaders! Please thank the person next to you! He has paid for your journey. Maybe you should offer to mow his lawn!…Maybe you should cook them a nice meal!” …
To which the only response when one is straphanging, sardined, bloodshot eyed and ripe for murder on the 8:12: “Get f***ed!” or “Please thank us for putting up with your bloody system. Maybe you should provide a system worth paying for!” (Unfortunately, I’m a wimp, and pay for my ticket.)
But the crowning glory appeared earlier this year, an advertising campaign so expensive, so high in production values, so out there and full of creative juice that noone on the balcony could understand it at all. Even Girlchild and Boychild, usually so good at explaining the modern world to us, could only shake their heads pensively. It was vaguely apparent that it was about Connex, but apart from that the message was far from clear.
Wretched souls, washed in a blue-grey arthouse ambience and dreadfully expensive lighting, struggled through streets and over pavements, literally carrying others, to hysterically tragic music, like some modern day Victor Hugo ripoff. I was bemused. The role of advertising is to portray the product or service in a flattering light, but this seemed like a realistic portrayal of the hellish journey through Footscray “premium” (hah!) station to the
fourth circle of Hell City Loop, complete with the wails of the damned. In my abortive attempt to find a jay-peg for this post I came across this description of the soundtrack: “The music for the advertisement, an evocative Stalinist mood-piece entitled No(t) Home, was written especially for the video by Russian born, Tasmanian based singer Zulya Kamalova, a leading proponent of Tatar music in Australia.”
Imagine the fulminations from Bolt and co. if a public company had come out with an ad containing a Stalinist mood-piece. Oh, the irony.
The ads were linked to a website, which probably cost Connex another bucket of our money, but it was impossible to load it until the other day – one of those dratted Flash sites which just kind of sit there and never load. Nevertheless, we eventuallly worked it out: the Don’t Hold Others Back campaign is to inform us that we, the passengers, are the cause of all the trouble. Yes, forget about the cancellation of the 5.11 and the Faulty Train at Flinders Street which the crackling PA is ranting about. It’s YOU, you wretch, you’re thirty seconds late and you’ll make the train wait for you! Which makes us all suffer!
Except, of course that most of it’s bollocks because trains don’t wait, do they? If you’re slow, you just have to catch the next one. If it comes, of course. The primary offender in holding us all back is Connex itself, and this kind of conspicuous consumption just rubs our noses in it.
If Connex could just shut up with the advertising and spin for a year or two and spend the money on improving the system instead, we’d all cheer.