In the UK the car is the most popular mode of transport - regardless of your age, gender or income.
Virgin trains want people to travel by train, so we needed to convert people from their cars and onto trains, one journey at a time.
Motorway use has risen 16% since 2000. The highest of any road ‘type’ despite the fact that a third of car journeys are now blighted by roadworks and delays.
Official reports show that the M1 is Britain’s most frustrating motorway, closely followed by the M6, both of which cover the same journey as Virgin Train’s Leeds and Birmingham routes.
Motorway drivers were stuck in traffic on these busy stretches of motorway every day while the train was whizzing past them on the same route.
Analysis on Google Maps allowed us to calculate that delays from London to Birmingham (M6) increase average journey times from two and a half hours to four hours on weekday peak times and just over three hours on weekends.
From London to Leeds (M1) we found that the average journey time to be three and a half hours, increasing to five hours at midweek peak and four and a half on the weekend.
This analysis showed us when people would be experiencing their worst delays and their worse car journeys.
These motorways are every driver’s worst nightmare and we needed to capitalise on these moments of frustration.
We would target them one journey at a time. We would isolate our activity to the two routes which offered the best opportunity - Leeds and Birmingham - because they ran along the worst motorways in Britain.
It’s not often we’re brave enough to challenge our own strategic conventions but with this campaign we did just that. Virgin Trains had historically targeted people in moments of positive mindset (feel-good programming and editorial, at the cinema, etc.) with messaging about how great the Virgin Trains experience is.
This approach was radically different. We wanted to create a media plan that targeted people when they hated their cars – at ‘hell spots’.
Radio and OOH were obvious choices as they still represent the only channels consumed whilst driving. What was less obvious was how we were going to sync our message with the perfect ‘hell’ moment.
It was relatively easy to use Google’s traffic data to isolate the worst places, days of the week and times of day when delays were most likely. This gave us our broad ‘hell spots’ along the M1 & M6.
The question was then – how do we target media against these ‘hell spots’?
Our ambition was to adapt our radio copy in real time as people drove along the motorways – getting a different message relevant to their location. We wanted to show that Virgin Trains knew where you were and what an awful journey you were having. Trouble is, radio is sold by TV region, making that practically impossible.
So we worked with Global Radio and Virgin Trains’ creative agency, Anomaly, to deliver our ambition. Firstly, we broke the region up based on individual radio transmitters – eight in total. Working closely with Global we created a new transmission map and areas along the motorway.
We then bought Global and Anomaly together to create and deliver bespoke copy for each 20km stretch of the motorway. The copy changed based on time of day, day of week and around traffic blackspots.
We also mapped roadworks along our route – both planned and in real time after the campaign went live – and we up-weighted each 40-mile strip of the motorway accordingly.
No-one has ever planned, bought and created copy for radio like that before.
Finally, we used live Google Maps data to plan our OOH campaign. We set a threshold based on the average speed of historic traffic, and our OOH was triggered only when it was 15% below that threshold.
Through clever use of data and pioneering a new radio buying model, we ensured every disgruntled driver was served a creative message reminding them of the alternative - Virgin Trains.