Tags: advertising campaigns

14 Oct 2007, Comments Off on Ad Nauseam: Connex again

Ad Nauseam: Connex again

Author: Helen

Look, folks, it’s not rocket science. If you’re* providing a crappy, substandard service; if you’re struggling to meet targets that the publicly owned system met back in 1951 (and some of your vehicles and equipment are about that old, too); if your stock is owned by a government that’s been reduced to buying rusty old carriages that have been standing in a paddock (leading to who knows what safety issues); if your trains are becoming known as substitutes for sardine tins and your trains and stations are dangerous places to be because you won’t employ staff to keep them safe, or sell tickets…

Then if you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising and PR, don’t be surprised if people just hate you more. (Note to the Liberal party and other political incumbents: this works for you, too.)
Image from martinmerton.com

On top of all the advertising campaigns we’ve had from Connex this year – I’ve counted about four separate poster campaigns on the go – now we’ve got the intensely irritating Martin Merton PhD, a character dreamed up by Connex’s advertising suits. Viral marketing, how adorable! Oh, the lovable, zany madcaps. Martin Merton is supposed to be like the archetypal US motivational guru. Check out the online tutorials with such hilarious titles as “legs wide shut” and “putting mute in commuter”. Hours of entertainment!

Self-help expert Dr Martin Merton is currently in Melbourne to launch his new book. After many months spent studying the habits of Melbourne commuters and many weeks analysing hundreds of commuter comments Dr Merton will finally release his findings in his most recent work, There’s No “I” in Carriage.
Once you adopt his simple psychological principles and clinically tested methodologies you will immediately enter a world of passenger-friendly positivity. From now on that warm fuzzy feeling at the base of your stomach will be commuter pride and not the leaked contents of a Souvlaki.

Oh, my sides are splitting already. This lame attempt to win the hearts and minds of the yoof is just sad. The yoof hate them anyway.

There’s also a glossy version of There’s No I in Carriage given out at stations, which looks as if it was quite expensive to produce.

As well as wasting untold $$$ on this crap, Connex is going to introduce a new kind of electronic ticketing system, which is estimated to cost nearly $500 million – even though the present ticketing system isn’t causing as much trouble as all the other problems the system has. After all this, you can be sure we’ll be waiting a few more decades for trains that can cope with Melbourne’s population, cleaner stations and (yes, I’m a wild, romantic fool), station staff.

*It has to be said, Connex, dreadful as it is, has to share responsibility with the Victorian government, which has just renewed its contract and is supposed to take responsibility for the infrastructure. Their responsible minister has said, straight out, “Do I want to run a train system? I don’t think so.”

11 Dec 2006, Comments Off on Ad Nauseam: All Connex ads

Ad Nauseam: All Connex ads

Author: Helen

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.)

Image from the old Public Transport Users Assocn site

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.