VIA Rail, Canada's national rail passenger service, is still considered a small player in the transportation industry. 77% of the transportations in the markets are still travelled by car. VIA Rail needed to find a new way to convince people to use the train more often.
When consumers plan a trip from PointA to Point B, their primary concern is to have the shortest travel time. This is a global truth, but it is especially powerful in Canada because its vast territories can make travel time even longer.
Canada is dominated by cars. With nearly 78% of the Canadian population owning a vehicle, the car represents much more than a transportation mode; it is synonymous to the American way of life. Because of their unconditional love of cars, drivers tend to be overly optimistic about how long it actually takes to get somewhere by car, failing to factor real-time road conditions into their calculations.
The car is the fastest option when the road conditions are ideal. Most of the time however, when traffic and bad weather get in the way, the train becomes the best solution. But this information did not register with car drivers. Research showed that soft educational campaigns do not change car drivers’ perception and they still under-estimate time it takes to get to their destination by car.
It was time to unleash the power of data to steal shares from cars. Consumers needed to be convinced by real-time information at the moment it mattered the most, like showing them that their projected arrival time was longer than expected as they are driving down a busy highway. Drivers are more likely to consider switching to VIA Rail during these moments of truth, when they realize they won't get to their destination on time.
The campaign strategy was to leverage real-time traffic and weather data to maximize the relevance of the message for motorists. We compared real-time travel information for both transportation options: when traffic or bad weather conditions arise, drivers were reminded they took the wrong transportation mode.
Partnerships with Google Maps and the Weather Network made our data strategy come to life. We created programming interfaces specifically for this campaign and integrated the data feed at each touch point, enabling the real-time data management and synchronization across all out-of-home and digital channels.
Our challenge was to provide drivers with real-time traffic information on each of the 16 stretches of highways covered by VIA Rail. At any given point in time, the message was customized to each consumer. It took into consideration their current geo-position, their predicted end destination and real-time traffic and weather data.
In addition, we put together several different traffic scenarios to adjust our messages. Since the car is the fastest option under ideal road conditions. a generic message from VIA Rail was displayed If traffic was light. If traffic was heavy (more than 20% longer by car), the exact travel time comparisons were displayed.
We targeted drivers at all phases of the targeted consumers’ trip:
• Before: We identified drivers about to travel by targeting those who looked up for weather or traffic information for a destination outside their home town.
• During: We targeted drivers stuck in traffic on the highways connecting the major cities, within the market covered by VIARail.
• After: We re-targeted drivers that had been stuck in traffic or delayed due to weather conditions.
The success of our strategy hinged on the relevance and quality of the information we communicated. It became useful information to drivers, allowing VIA Rail to breakthrough the perception screen of car lovers.
A digital banner campaign communicated real-time travel times for car versus train. We leveraged a reverse IP on weather website traffic feeds. Our campaign specifically targeted people looking up the weather forecast for destinations within ViaRail’s market, but outside of consumers’ home town.
Real-time traffic information was shown in our SEM campaign. We also created a unique script with Google Search to target drivers in their pre-travel preparation phase. With the script, we were able to update our ads and site links based on actual time to get to each searched destination. In addition, we also programmed the bids so that VIARail could capture 100% SOV during these moments of truth.
With digital out-of-home, we covered all of the major highways between Quebec City and Toronto. Some 31million impressions were generated with uniquely accurate information. The message was adapted in real-time, displaying the estimated arrival time based on the location of each sign and current traffic conditions. Because it was based on the geo-location of each board, the message was always different and customized.
If road conditions favor car, the generic VIARail message was displayed.
Finally, we leveraged our out-of-home partnership to collect all the mobile deviceIDs of drivers exposed to the advertising as well as drivers who were stuck in traffic jams. We then re-targeted these drivers as they arrived at their destination, displaying a personalized message that reminded them of the frustration of being stuck in traffic and the benefits of taking the train.