A couple of years ago we were handed a challenging assignment by Viva.
They wanted to make university students a core rider group, and make transit a behavioural choice for a new generation or riders. And oh, while doing that, they also wanted us to change the image of the bus as a loser cruiser.

No pressure, clearly.

Our single, unifying idea pivoted on transit’s promise of connectivity - its very reason for being. But we placed it in the context of the student’s world.

Viva connects you with the world you live in, we told them.
Yes, Viva gets you there on time, reliably, efficiently and comfortably.
Yes, riding Viva is good for the planet, but as importantly, when you ride Viva, you continue to make friends and meet people.

In a car you shut the door and cut yourself off.
On Viva, life goes on. Love goes on. Fun goes on.

The ads simply showed you how.

The campaign went on to win awards at transit and mainstream advertising award shows and was a huge success with students. We extended the campaign with an SMS marketing promotion in which students could win an iPod. If you'd like a case study with more details, write to me here.


Creative Directors:
Gavin Barrett, Mike Welsh

Art Director: Mike Welsh
Copywriter: Gavin Barrett

Photographer: Don Dixon

Article and blog, copyright Gavin Barrett 2008

Barrett and Welsh is heading out to San Francisco.

Gavin Barrett, Creative Director | Partner, Barrett and Welsh and Pushing Buses author, will be attending the APTA Marketing and Communications Workshop at the Hilton San Francisco Financial District.

We're looking forward to meeting the other APTA "Bus/CableCar/Train Pushers"!

Photo (c)Tomo.Yun http://www.yunphoto.net/en/

Article and blog, copyright Gavin Barrett 2009
All creative work shown is the property of its copyright owner(s) unless otherwise specified.

I'm proud to announce that Los Angeles Transportation Headlines, one of the world's most comprehensive aggregations of daily news on transit, transportation and urban planning, has included Pushing Buses in its Selected Blogs list.

Article and blog, copyright Gavin Barrett 2009

This lenticular poster from Australia promoting safety around rail lines and rail crossings is a perfect match between idea and medium.

One second, there's nothing there. The next...

Now that's creative that hits you like a train.

Article and blog, copyright Gavin Barrett 2009
All creative work shown is the property of its copyright owner(s).

This 1999 poster from the Underground's advertising archives shows that great brands weren't born yesterday.

An evocative precursor to the now well-established Making London Simple positioning, the poster makes the case for the Jubilee line with a single, intelligent sentence and great big serving of graphic wit.

Designed by Michael Johnson for the London Transport. From the collection of London Transport Museum.

Article and blog, copyright Gavin Barrett 2009
All creative work shown is the property of its copyright owner(s).

#3 in my series of Transit Logo Posters. This one's a collection of bus transit logos from around the world - and by no means is it the most comprehensive. As always, if you'd like a high resolution version (for free) write to me here.

Article, poster and blog, copyright Gavin Barrett 2009
All logos and trademarks shown are the property of their owners.

Lord Leverhulme rather famously said "Half of my advertising budget is wasted. I just don't know which half."
And with that somewhat tautological statement, he set off a craze for measurement and ROI that has, to this day, not found a resolution.

Frankly, as a creative director and business owner I think it's a waste trying to identify the waste.

I would focus my energies and investment in trying to identify the other half, the half that works. Truth be told, even that will always be an imprecise science. In advertising and marketing, we are still wallowing in the quagmire of empirical limitation and search for validation in numerical or statistical evidence.

The human mind (and human behaviour) continues to be a source of astonishment to those who pursue a deeper understanding of it in a lifetime of study - anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, neuroscientists. Our synapses and dendrites contain more information than a year's worth of tracking studies, focus groups and quantitative research.

None of them can truly account for or predict that undefinable moment when a creative act changes or defines a brand, its position in the market and its true value to its consumers. Think different (to borrow a phrase from a brand that did - and still does).

Article: Creative Commons License 2009 Gavin Barrett
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada License.

Portrait of Lord Leverhulme by Augustus John, via link to Liverpool Museums website
Strategy = I think.
Tactics = I do.

Strategy = Analysis, planning, ideation.
Tactics = Mechanisms, activities, deployment.

Strategy - tactics = Einstein's brain in a jar.
Tactics - strategy = Einstein without a brain at all.

Strategy + tactics = e = mc(squared)

Article: Creative Commons License 2008 Gavin Barrett
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada License.
Over on LinkedIn, a fellow member posted this question, and the answer I sent in might be pertinent to followers of this blog.

His question on Multicultural Agencies:
Does anyone have any experience working with (as a client) full service multicultural advertising agencies? What was your over-all experience? What were they good at? What were they not so good at? Any thoughts about how the over-all experience of engaging a multicultural agency could have been better?

My answer:
I am a principal/Creative Director at a very successful multicultural agency in Canada - one that is also a mainstream agency. Naturally I approach your questions with a somewhat different lens.

The development of multicultural work is fraught with difficulties.

I find too many multicultural agencies don't dive deep enough into the traditional rigour of good advertising and marketing practice to create insight-based work that is persuasive, engaging and relevant. The result, often, is work that is only one level above mere translation - with just a glimmer or two of culture sensitivity to justify its existence.

At the same time I can't exactly blame the agencies - clients too often want one-off ads - a token nod at the need to have something running in the multicultural market so that they are not conspicuous by their absence.

Operationally, clients frequently assign junior marketing staff to handle multicultural marketing functions independently without the guidance and steadying experience of senior marketers. Imagine how frustrating this can be.

One thing to be cautious of, is agencies that pretend to be more than they are. Hispanic agencies who swear that they can manage Asian American markets without an issue - or vice versa. Chinese market agencies who say they can handle South Asian markets - or vice versa. There are some that do, but these are few and far apart.

I would say to you that you should expect the same things from your multicultural agency as from your mainstream agency. Work of the highest strategic and creative quality for your market. People you can enjoy working with and can trust to deliver.

I would challenge you to provide the same things to your multicultural agency as you do your mainstream agency. Great, disciplined marketing briefs, the involvement and interest of senior marketing management, and the same respect for the process you give mainstream work.

Article: Creative Commons License 2008 Gavin Barrett
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada License.

In the advertising and media section of today's New York Times, Stuart Elliot features Acela's brand new campaign. In the wake of Amtrak's high-profile celebrity endorsements from the likes of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, its high speed rail service, Acela, is stepping out smartly and reminding fliers and drivers of the creature comforts afforded by rail travel.

The commercial, by Arnold DC is slick; high production values are evident throughout. Though mass transit needs all the help it can get in gas-loving North America and while I'll put my money behind the morality of the common good any day, I have to be honest: good solid marketing? Yes. Mind-blowing creative? Nope. Pull down your skirt Arnold. Your briefs are showing.

Image from Amtrak's Acela campaign produced by Arnold DC, via the advertising and media section of the New York Times.
Article and blog, copyright Gavin Barrett 2009

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