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Viewers mystified by rail company ads

TV viewers are mystified by rail company adverts suggesting that train journeys are quick, easy, affordable, and take you to places that you might want to go to. Many rail operators seem keen to blow their hard-earned subsidies on TV ads – but why?

Marketing experts are also puzzled. In their view advertising cannot cover up for a bad service. Customers know that, in reality, the rail service is very variable, because of strikes, bad weather, cancellations, underinvestment, overcrowding, illness, weird pricing, government interference and engineering problems. They are also aware that travelling on busy trains is like attending a catch-covid festival.

A number of theories to explain the TV ads have been put forward. The first theory is that the rail companies are trying to find new customers who haven’t used the train before. Interesting theory. Those people are in for a shock.

The second theory is that people are stupid. If you tell them to go by train, they go by train. Even in the sophisticated twenty first century, with its TikToks and space shots and ultra processed food, people will still buy something if they see an ad.

The third theory is that the ads validate rail journeys by existing customers. People who already travel by train can now pretend that their usual service is just an aberration and that one day the trains will run just like in the adverts. Fools.

Other more eccentric theories are: that that TV companies can’t sell adverts on TV and are basically giving them away; the adverts are just an ego trip for rail company bosses; and that the government requires rail companies to advertise in the desperate hope of reducing the subsidies they need.

What’s the answer? Nobody knows. Something to think about next time you’re watching a railway company ad.

image from pixabay


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