Eurostar, the high-speed passenger train service linking London to Paris and Brussels via the Channel Tunnel, launched last November.
There are now seven trains a day and, when the service is fully operational in the autumn, there will be 15. Eurostar will then have the capacity to carry more passengers than all London to Paris flights combined.
The task for Eurostar and its ad agency, Young & Rubicam, has been to make sure those seats are filled. Market growth will supply some of the passengers but it had to attract those who normally fly.
Y&R was asked to communicate the advantages of taking the train over air travel. These were identified as:
First, the train goes direct from city centre to city centre; the airports, on the other hand, are situated in outlying areas.
Second, the trains are much less cramped than planes, allowing travellers to move about.
The advertising has been phased, reflecting the gradual development of the service. Initially, posters were used to convey the basic information that it is possible to travel to Paris and Brussels direct. But with expansion of the service, TV commercials have been screened to give consumers some idea of what the journey is like.
The ads target “discoverers” – the people likely to use the service first. Their endorsement, it is hoped, will ripple through society and deliver the required number of passengers.
With a brief to position Eurostar as the choice for travel to mainland Europe, the ads have to show that the service is not just for business or leisure travellers but for everyone.
The TV commercial aims to demonstrate Eurostar’s benefits. The exterior scenes concentrate on the train’s speed, communicated via powerful straight-line images which compare the train racing along its track with a speeding arrow and running man. Interior scenes concentrate on the train’s relaxing environment. The flexible visual metaphor means the ad can run in France, Belgium and the UK.
The advertising began in May with a total media budget of just over 2m, made up of TV, posters and press ads.
Y&R claims results have been positive. A tracking study indicates the commercial communicates the desired messages: respondents understood that Eurostar makes it easy to get to Paris and Brussels and that the service is for all types of travellers.
Since April, the trains have carried more than 500,000 passengers to the Continent. A year-on-year comparison suggests the service is competing effectively with air travel despite some well-publicised hitches.
From a standing start, Euro-star has attracted 65 per cent of all the air passengers carried last year to Paris and Brussels, implying both market growth and significant share gain.