Spot the difference – transport advertising in the lead-up to elections

I was thinking the government ads about transport upgrades back in 2009-10 (Labor) are pretty similar to 2014 (Coalition).

How would it be if I got them both and dubbed the audio of one over the video of another?

The 2010 version is mostly about trains; the 2014 one has been chopped a tad to remove around 15 seconds that was about East West Link. But it’s surprising how well they fit. (The full unedited versions are shown below.)

This time around, Channel 7 reports ads like this have cost at least $3.2 million so far.

Comparing 2010 to 2014

Let’s play a little game of Spot The Difference.

2009-2010 – Labor 2013-2014 – Coalition
Advert for new Smartbus route 903
Advert for a measly 6 extra services on bus route 630
moving-victoria-ad-20140301
Nice placement: Advertising, Cheltenham station
Victorian Transport Plan advertising, December 2009
Myki billboard advertising, February 2014
Bayside Rail Imorovements poster, Bentleigh, February 2014 (cropped)

Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said the ad campaign should now be considered “electioneering” and withdrawn immediately. He vowed to cut advertising spending in the transport portfolio if the Coalition won government in November. “If I’m the transport minister, the money I have available to me will be going into nuts and bolts business, not self-promotion,” he said.

The Age, 1/9/2010

Rather than invest in public transport Napthine Govt invests in advertising 2 tell us how good it is. But you can’t spin lived experience!
Jill Hennessy, Labor Public Transport Spokesperson, 28/2/2014, Twitter

Denis Napthine will fight for his survival with the last dollar of your money #springst
Martin Pakula, Labor Spokesperson for Scrutiny of Government, and Transport Minister 2010, 1/3/2014, Twitter

Is advertising ever justified?

Yes, sure it is. Public transport is a product which competes against other modes of travel, particularly cars.

But it the ads should be informative, or at the very least should tell you why (even at a high level) you should be using the product.

Some of the ads have been informative at some level. From the sample above (and it is only a sample), Labor’s newspaper ads and the Coalition’s billboard/noticeboard ads have some level of useful information in them.

Amazingly, none of the Coalition’s ads spell out a huge improvement they’ve delivered in the last couple of years, but almost totally failed to promote: frequent weekend trains on much of the network.

And the TV ads in particular, placed by both sides of politics over the years, tell you very little — they seem purely design to try and convince you that your Government is doing Good Things with your money.

Daniel vs the ATM

My recollection is that Automatic Teller Machines used to be much simpler devices, and much faster. I’m sure back in the day I timed myself getting cash using the basic buttons and 1-2 line dot-matrix LED “display” they had back then and had it down to under 30 seconds.

These days ATMs are complex beasts with colour screens and animated ads, but the functionality to customers is almost the same as it was back then: put your card in, enter your PIN, do an enquiry (check your balance) or make a withdrawal, from account Savings, Cheque or Credit, enter the amount, then take your cash and card and let the next person have a go.

Each transaction takes waaaaaay longer than it used to. It’s not just the ads, the whole thing seems slower.

Bank of Melbourne ATM: frozen

So anyway, I sidled up to an ATM last night to get some cash. Slipped the card in, and as usual, the face of Jason the local bank manager popped up, with an invitation to contact him via the details on the receipt. (I never opt for receipts, and the ad is the same even when the ATM can’t print receipts, as it often can’t.)

Normally after a few seconds of Jason’s attentive stare, it then warns you to cover your hand as you enter the PIN… despite that Bank Of Melbourne ATMs all seem to have a built-in cover.

This time however, it got stuck on Jason. It had frozen up.

I gave it what seemed like a very generous period of time before I started punching buttons. Cancel, Clear, even that button to trigger the audio prompts through a headphone socket. No response.

Oh terrific.

After a minute or two, it was obviously not going to unfreeze, or give up the card. Jason’s invitation to ring him was still on the screen, but I obviously wouldn’t be getting the receipt with his phone number on it to actually do so… though it was around 6pm anyway; I doubt he’d still be at work.

So I found a (barely readable) enquiries phone number on the ATM and rang it. I thought at least if I can get the card cancelled before I walk away, nobody can use it if the ATM spits it out.

The bank’s hotline of course had an automatic menu wherein no option quite described the situation I was in. Was the card lost or stolen? Well, not really lost, since I knew it was in this ATM. Stolen? Again, only if you count the bank’s own automaton as having stolen it.

I chose the option that loosely approximated my situation, and after trying to tell the machine by way of the phone’s Hash button that I had no idea what my Access Number, Card Number or Access Password was, and some minutes on hold (everybody’s idea of fun), I then spoke to a guy who said he couldn’t help, and he transferred me.

All the while I was standing in front of the ATM blocking anybody else using it, hoping I didn’t look like a dunderhead who can’t use such a basic machine, or some kind of ATM-hog. Thankfully nobody else wanted it.

The lady I then got transferred to was able to help… at least, after making me answer some security questions (including my verbal password, though she never made clear if I had correctly guessed or not), she cancelled the card and ordered a replacement, and usefully also to connect one of my other cards with the bank to the account I had intended to access. I was able to withdraw cash from another ATM using the second card. Hey cool, maybe I don’t even need the replacement!

I also asked her if she wanted to know precisely which of her bank’s ATMs had gone kaputsky. No; she implied she knew already. Perhaps as its last gasp before freezing it sent a message back to base saying it had grabbed my card, and she was able to see that information.

Oddly, passing an hour or two later, the ATM appeared to be working again. Or perhaps it was a trap, lying in wait to lure another unsuspecting customer into giving up their card.

I’ll leave you with this snippet from Wikipedia:

Today the vast majority of ATMs worldwide use a Microsoft Windows operating system

Hmmm. That might explains a lot.

January Calendar shopping – some good ones left if you hunt around a bit

It’s about this time of year that I often go calendar shopping.

I generally like to have a calendar hanging in the kitchen, and another in the toilet.

Sometimes I’ll get given them at Christmas, of course — for last year I was given two excellent ones — the Melbourne Train Station calendar, and another of old London travel posters.

They’ve been great, but with the new year, I now have to say goodbye to them.

Able & Game: Melbourne train station calendar 2013London travel poster calendar 2013

This year, alas, I was given none.

And sometimes I’ll have the Leunig calendar from The Age. But these days they don’t just give it to you for free with the paper in early December — no. With mainstream media scrounging for revenue, they make you traipse down to the newsagent and give them a few extra dollars for it. Which I didn’t do.

I reckon when buying calendars for yourself, it’s better to go shopping after Christmas, when they’re discounted. Sure, the later you leave it, the more the risk you’ll have to hunt around to find anything good, but at least you won’t be paying $20 or $25 for the equivalent of a 12-page book.

Calendar discounts

So, at Chadstone on Tuesday I found the newsagent had some for half price. Others, including one on street art, had been marked down from $20 to $13, then to half of that. $6.50. Sold.

Then yesterday we were at Southland. There was a calendar shop set up in one area (if one were trendy you’d call it a Pop Up Shop, but it’s been popping up there for decades at this time of year). They had everything for 40% off, and a few good ones.

But at Myer I found them for 75% off. Not many good ones in their stash, but the Monty Python one looked good. $6.25. Sold.

I guess the travel/transport theme has been abandoned for the next twelve months… maybe I’ll swing back to it next year!

Christmas wrap-up

Christmas Day was largely spent with family, eating too much, playing with a giant cushion-like water balloon (which burst when, tragically, nobody was watching/filming) and swapping presents.

Our haul this time around included a Wii U, which should be fun, and for my own personal stash I got some great movies on Blu-ray (Help, and The World’s End), a rather nice framed original artwork, an excellent big book (The Beatles — All The Songs — great for dipping into and reading about the origins of their songs, something which has interested me greatly recently), and a voucher for MTC theatre tickets.

I was pondering if the video game console manufacturers beef up their online servers at Christmas to handle millions of consoles needing software updates, and lots of people signing up for the first time. Perhaps they don’t beef them up enough — Nintendo had problems over the Christmas period, and had to partially shut down their eShop service.

It wasn’t all good news in our house, either: our Christmas tree fell over on Christmas Day, and will need replacing. We already knew the lights were going to need replacing. Maybe they can be procured at a discount during the post-Christmas sales period?
Christmas tree fallen over

After Christmas festivities were over for the afternoon, I went on a PT joyride. Services were free, and unlike the UK where virtually the whole system shuts down, runs a normal Sunday timetable. There were quite a few people touching-on/off their Myki cards — hopefully they were charged nothing, as advertised… obviously not advertised widely enough. But wouldn’t it be good customer service to open all the fare gates? Most at Caulfield were closed.
Christmas Day at Caulfield station
(Of course, the biggest problem preventing more people using the system on Christmas Day is lack of services. Trains and trams were okay, but with most buses only hourly, it’s very self-limiting, even with free rides.)

On Boxing Day I went farming, where I helped to count sheep, and didn’t fall asleep once.
Sheep

I also learnt to speak sheep. “Baaaaaaaa!” (Thanks Kate for the photo.)
Daniel tries speaking sheep. "Baaaa!"

I also managed to bang one of my toes on a metal chair leg, leaving me with a big bruise and pain when I walked, until both thankfully faded away about a day later. Here’s the bruise in its small, early stages. Scary colour to see on one of your toes.
Toe bruise

In Euroa we spotted this Stump People Nativity scene — very rural!
Stump people nativity scene, Euroa

Saw the second Hobbit movie on Saturday. Very good. Watched it in Gold Class at Southland — parked by the non-existent railway station.
Parked at Southland, next to the railway station

Hope you all had a good Christmas.

Deliveries

Definitely in the category of First World Problems

When you order something online…

…and you get it sent to home rather than work because it’s a bit bulky…

…and you aren’t home when they try to deliver it…

…and they don’t take it to a Licenced Post Office which is open on weekends…

…and they don’t take it to a regular Post Office with a pre-9am pickup window

Instead they take it to another post office which isn’t too far away, but only operates 9 to 5 on weekdays. When I’m at work.

How do they expect me to pick it up?

Thankfully it wasn’t sent to some courier depot somewhere, and I was able to get the kids to pick it up for me, but it makes me think that if it’s known that online orders and packages are a big part of the future of the post office and of courier companies, they need to put a little more thought into this.

No wonder one company has launched parcel lockers you can install at home to replace your mail box, with built in smarts to send you a text message when a parcel arrives, though at $329 or more, I can’t see myself getting one any time soon. Perhaps a cheaper, lower-tech version is needed?

The new Melbourne GPO – not as appealing as the old one, but perhaps more useful

The Melbourne General Post Office was built in the 1860s, and served as GPO until 2001. Nowadays it’s a shopping centre.

Untitled

Australia Post moved its retail operations a little north, to the other side of Little Bourke Street, with a big (but no doubt cheaper to run) Post Shop.

Now that too has closed, in favour of a new one a little further north again, on the corner of Lonsdale Street. I assume it’s still under construction — at least, it looks that way.

Australia Post Shop, Elizabeth Street

Inside the most interesting thing of note is the self-service checkouts and vending machines.

There are still humans serving, in what appears to be a similar fashion to other post offices. But PostPaks, stamps and other products can be bought via the machines.

This, at last, means you can buy postal products without having to queue behind dozens of people wanting to buy gifts and pay bills (something I only ever do online these days).

And a bonus: the frontmost section is open 24/7. It’s got parcel pickup lockers, and snack-style vending machines. If you’re ever in the vicinity and in urgent need of a 10-pack of stamps late at night, you’re in luck.

Australia Post vending machine

Supermarket fruit+veg bags – all the way from the USA #FoodMiles

Anybody who likes to minimise their food miles might like to note this… increasing numbers of Woolworths supermarkets are using bags for fruit and vegetables that are made in the USA.

Fruit and vegetable bags at Woolworths

That’s not to say other supermarket bags aren’t also imported from a long way away. As far as I’ve noticed, the Woolworths ones are the only ones that say so.

It’s a similar story when buying cling wrap — almost all brands seem to be made in China nowaways.

The bags shown above aren’t heavy or bulky, of course, but a chain like Woolworths must go through millions of them every year. It all adds up.

Personally, if I’m buying only about three or less of each item, provided they’re not small, I don’t usually bother to put them in a bag at all.

Why is Metro allowing this advertising in its stations? – part 2 – Kia #comfortisethis

A couple of years ago I wrote about Nissan Micra ads at Flinders Street Station directly criticising public transport.

This time, it’s Kia’s turn, though it’s a little less overt. Spotted at Malvern (as well as other locations, such as South Yarra):

Kia advertising at Malvern station

You know, I’ve been using public transport for decades. I’ve seen people asleep, but I’ve never, ever had someone fall asleep on my shoulder. Does it really happen, or is it just a cliché?

Kia advertising at Malvern station

I suppose this is not necessarily poking fun at walking as a form of transport, but it could be read that way.

It does strike me that getting a plastic bag caught on your heel may be an “uncomfortable moment”, but on the other hand, research indicates that driving in unsuitable shoes such as these is just plain dangerous:

Adrienne Savoy, a driving instructor for DriversEd.com, said the higher the heel, the more a person is in danger.

“When you’re wearing high heels, it’s nearly impossible for the heel to stay steady on top of the mat, which would delay the reaction time between the accelerator and the brake. Sometimes you only have a second to react, so that could be a split second you have to prevent a crash,” she said.

Even for those of us who never wear heels, we know that travelling by public transport is an order of magnitude safer than driving.

I think I’d rather be uncomfortable than unsafe.