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Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said the ad campaign should now be considered “electioneering” and withdrawn immediately.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.

Train window ads – what about visibility?

I’m not against advertising on public transport. It brings in much-needed revenue and helps subsidise services.

But it shouldn’t be intruisive.

Bus and tram passengers have had to get used to ads on windows of vehicles over many years, but it’s only in the last couple of years that it’s become prominent on trains. It seems to be applied with a semi-transparent film.

Generally they seem to aim for some, but not all, of the windows along the side of a carriage… and not every carriage, so as with buses and trams, some windows are left clear.

But this still results in some visibility problems.

Outside advertising on trains

Looking in from the outside it’s very difficult to see inside, meaning staff (including PSOs) may be unlikely to spot issues inside the train. It also makes it more difficult for passengers boarding to identify and avoid the more crowded parts of the train. It might be a tad better at night, but during the day you basically can’t see in.

Looking out from the inside of the carriage is a mixed bag.

Viewing across from the other side of the carriage, it’s actually not bad, at least in daylight. Outside scenery, including important things like station signs, are quite visible.

Outside advertising on trains: from the inside

But up close, it’s not as easy. It can be difficult to focus on things outside, at least if they’re some distance off, which may make some signage difficult to read.

To compare to a clear window, you can kind of see the effect of the film in this photo, though the way the camera has focussed doesn’t exactly reflect what the eye sees.

Outside advertising on trains: from the inside

Objects very close to the window, such as the station signs in the underground loop, are still very clear — but at most stations they aren’t that close.

Outside advertising on trains: from the inside

Those who have real problems seeing out or knowing where they are will want to aim for windows that are unobstructed.

But this may not be an option during peak hour, and really, government and operators should ensure that passenger visibility (both in and out) of trains (and trams and buses) is better than it is with these ads plastered over them.

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.

“If someone’s abused on this train, let them know you’re on their side.” – Train ads address racism on PT

I assume this Anti-Hate advertising campaign from the Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission is a response to some well-publicised incidents recently:

Anti-Hate advertisement on a train

The small print says: The only thing more painful than racism is the silence that follows. If someone’s abused on this train, let them know you’re on their side. Help stop the hurt.

So are they encouraging people to give the racists a spray? Kind of… as the web site notes:

If you don’t act you might later feel guilty that you didn’t! But, more importantly, research shows that when people watching don’t do anything, it increases the impact of the incident. That is, by everyone staying quiet while someone is yelling hateful things, it makes it seem like they all agree with what’s going on. This can be far more hurtful than the abuse itself.

So by making an effort to let the target know you don’t support the hate, you can make a huge difference to how someone feels about themselves and the community.

It goes on to say that:

would never recommend that you put yourself in physical danger, for instance if the hater is drunk, on drugs or appears violent. Of course, if violence or a crime occurs, call the Police on 000 immediately.

I don’t know whether the kind of racism seen recently is on the increase or if it’s just being brought to attention via the proliferation of phone cameras, but it’s good to see an attempt to address it. Hopefully it helps.

View the full Anti-Hate web site: antihate.vic.gov.au

Is there enough promotion of the good stuff in PT?

I was pondering awareness of a couple of things, so decided to try a quick online survey. Over about 24 hours it got just over 100 responses… unfortunately unless I pay SurveyMonkey $19 per month, they’ll only tell me about the first 100. I think I’ll just go with those for now. (Some people didn’t respond to questions, which is why the totals add up to 98.)

Firstly, I asked about Weekend Saver fares:
Survey question on Weekend Saver fares

This seems to show that while most are aware of it, some still aren’t, despite having been available in various forms since April 2005 — over 8 years. At $3.50 for all-day travel in zones 1+2, it’s a bit of a bargain, and while price isn’t everything, where the services are half-decent, it can encourage more people to use PT on weekends.

Secondly, the ten minute services that have been running for about a year:
Survey question on 10-minute weekend train services

I didn’t ask where people are from or where they travel, but it seems few are aware that on the three longest & busiest lines there’s now a pretty damn good weekend service frequency.

What these responses say to me is that PTV are still lacking when it comes to promotion.

Cheap fares, and trains every ten minutes on the three busiest lines? They should be promoting the hell out of this.

As I’ve said before, weekend train services are now better than they’ve ever been, but there’s been hardly any promotion, and what there has been has been so vague as to be pointless.

If we’re going to see frequent services on all lines, every day, demonstrable growth in patronage on these first ones needs to be shown. For that to happen, they have to be promoted properly.

PTV is meant to be promoting public transport. They do so, but in promoting these two key messages, they don’t appear to be kicking goals.

A few other good things that are not well promoted

Touch-on Myki at the station then find trains aren’t running? Touch-off again between 30 secs and 15 mins later; you won’t get charged.

No time (or no facility) to top-up your Myki Money? As long it’s 1 cent or more, you can make one trip and top-up later.

The Huntingdale station to Monash Uni 601 shuttle runs every 4 mins 7am-7pm weekdays (then every 12 mins to 9:30pm)

The North Melbourne station to University/Hospital Precinct 401 shuttle runs every 3-6 minutes 6:45am-7:30pm weekdays.

Clever placement of #MetroTrains #DumbWaysToDie characters in stations

A lot of the unfortunate jellybean characters are depicted around CBD railway stations at the moment as part of Metro’s Dumb Ways To Die campaign. I was amused at the placement of this one:

Clever placement of this #metrotrains #DumbWaysToDie sticker at Flagstaff

…but this one is even better. (Only a short video — don’t bother with the sound; it adds nothing.)

Perhaps I’m easily amused, but that did make me laugh. Very clever.

Competing #Myki top-up adverts

Noted at Flinders Street Station the other week, on one of those automatic rotating advertisement things: competing ads for Myki.

“Even the shortest queue can be avoided with Myki auto topup”
Auto topup Myki ad

A few seconds later: “Top-up at 7-Eleven now!”
7/11 Myki ad

(The third ad in the sequence was not Myki-related… after that it flipped back and repeated the two above.)

Interestingly, some 7-Eleven adverts, such as this one in MX, have emphasised that credit appears on your card straight away, unlike with online top-up.
#Myki promo in @mxmelbourne talking up instant topup (no delay like online)

It’ll be interesting to see if these types of adverts encourage people to use off-system top-ups such as at 7-Eleven, and/or auto-topup (which works quite well for Myki Money users, and is literally a “set and forget” system — once set up, this too is instant).

10 minute trains are great, but why is the promotion of them so incredibly vague and uninformative?

If you improve a product, and want it to sell well, you need to make people aware of it.

When they launched trains every 10 minutes between the City and Ringwood, Dandenong and Frankston last year on weekends, there was an initial bit of publicity via the media, but very little else.

Metro did some advertising via MX and billboards which was incredibly vague:

Metro billboard near Caulfield station, October 2012

Witty? Perhaps. But what does it tell you? It could mean anything. And it implies the boost is on Sundays only.

Even now, while the excellent Dumb Ways To Die campaign has gained a lot of awareness, as far as other promotion goes, they’ve reverted to non-specific advertising:

My Metro - billboard near Caulfield station, January 2013

It might build brand awareness, and hint at the idea that people should consider PT for travel everyday, not just to and from work/school, but does nothing to tell you that, actually, weekend train services are better than they’ve ever been — and let’s face it, that’s what’s going to get people on board.

While those who know have started using ten minute trains more (and loving it), and it’s relieved the crowding, a lot of people are completely unaware that Melbourne’s three busiest rail lines have such a frequent weekend service.

The problem was brought home to me a couple of years ago (before the latest upgrade) when my stepfather said that he wished they’d improve Sunday (daytime) train timetables from running every 40 minutes. In reality on his line they haven’t run every 40 minutes since 1996. In that year they changed to every 30, then to every 20 in 1999. He had been thoroughly discouraged from using trains on Sundays many years ago, and hadn’t heard they’d improved.

Many people are also unaware that you’ll pay a maximum of $3.50 per day on weekends and public holidays to travel anywhere around Melbourne.

There are good examples in the not too distant past of targeted, clear promotion that gets the message across. Here’s a local newspaper advert from 1992:

The Met: advertisement for improved Sandringham line services, 11th Feb 1992

With Melbourne’ CBD booming on weekends, and inner-city traffic and parking often causing hassles, fast frequent trains have real potential to help people get around Melbourne.

Not every line runs frequently, but if we’re going to see that happen, the ones that do need to be successful. Proper, clear promotion is vital to help make it so.