Via and Touché make the case for advertising with local media

Via Rail and Touché issued an unusual press release Tuesday about their summer “Love the Way” ad campaign, which drove a 5.5% revenue increase compared to the 2018 ad campaign.

Effectiveness is good, obviously, but what makes the release unusual is that Touché and Via wanted to talk about how 80% of their Ontario and Quebec buy went toward local digital media—a 25% increase from the year before.

The move is part of Touché’s efforts to promote what it calls “responsible media buying.” The context here is that almost all traditional media and journalism is under enormous cost pressure as advertiser budgets increasingly shift towards technology giants like Google and Facebook.

Local media hasn’t been able to compete with the grand promises of highly targeted advertising based on rich consumer data, which is often bought programmatically through ad technology.

The release does not mention the big platforms by name, but says the success of Via’s “Love the Way” campaign proves that local media gets results while also supporting local newsrooms.

“Due to the nature of our company, Via Rail’s marketing activities dedicated to route popularity, brand visibility and ticket sales are conducted almost exclusively online,” said Simon Parent, Via’s senior manager, marketing and optimization. “Increasing our presence in the Canadian digital ecosystem is therefore a strategic choice that allows us to effectively reach our target audience and to more fully embody our position as a unifying Canadian leader in sustainable, enjoyable and safe mobility, all while supporting local media.”

The decision was a good one, said Parent, with transactions increasing 6.5%, ridership up 6% and total revenue up 5.5%.

In a follow up statement to The Message, Parent explained that Via’s main objective is to increase consideration for rail travel, using its own data to shape its media buy, with specific digital KPIs.

“In 2018, we refined our brand DNA and positioning statement where sustainability is a key component,” he said.  “In order to embody this positioning, we decided to test if encouraging media partners that contribute to the Canadian economy could generate similar KPIs.

“We were not open to sacrificing on media KPIs and revenue efficiency. This test has been conclusive from a results perspective and, as a bonus, we walk the talk in our actions to be a leader in sustainable mobility.”

Touché said it believes it is crucial for advertisers and their agencies to support local media that develops relevant content for Canadians.

“Buying local and making responsible consumer choices became really important once we started to see local businesses suffering from the arrival of big box stores. The same line of thought now applies to media buys and advertising,” said Alain Desormiers, CEO at Omnicom Media Group Quebec, in the release. “It is crucial that our industry—agencies, advertisers and publishers alike—rethink its approach in order to support Quebec and Canadian newsrooms and content.”

“With the business success of the Via Rail campaign, we already started sharing the key learnings with other clients so that they can start implementing this approach to their strategies,” Desormiers told The Message. “This approach isn’t a drastic and spontaneous change but definitely an evolution. We took this position as a market leader back in 2017 and will keep that momentum in the upcoming years.”

Via Rail and Touché say they plan to utilize a “similar strategy” in 2020.


David Brown