Meet the world’s newest superhero: the Metrolinx spray bottle

Who: Metrolinx (Union Pearson Express), with BBDO Toronto.

What: “Safety never stops,” a new campaign touting the transit service’s commitment to ensuring rider safety during COVID, through steps including mandatory face coverings and enhanced cleaning measures.

When & Where: The campaign launched earlier this month and is running through Dec. 23 across YouTube and paid social including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Why: UP Express has seen what it describes as a “drastic decline” in riders during the pandemic, and this is about allaying the fears of potential riders when it comes to using public transit services.

How: Health and safety is obviously an important topic these days, but Metrolinx’s goal here was to cut through all of the sombre “unprecedented times” messaging we’ve been seeing for the past seven months. It’s an approach the transit agency has employed to great effect throughout the year.

The creative concept is built around positioning a group of critical but otherwise mundane health and safety-related products—masks, hand-sanitizing stations, spray bottles, etc.—as a ragtag team of “unknown heroes” dedicated to keeping UP Express riders safe. There are lots of close-up shots of masks, spray bottles etc. in action, but the spots’ draw their strength from some enthusiastic copywriting from Mike Schonberger, Simon Craig and Dave Delibato.

The heroic-sounding voiceover by Philip Williams positions these otherwise everyday items as the heroes we need right now: masks become capes for our face, “perched atop a lipstick cliff,” while the humble spray bottle becomes a symbol of fortitude in the face of an unrelenting enemy. “Will it ever give up?” asks the voiceover. “Yes…when the world is free of surfaces.”

Chris Powell