Via calls it a comeback in new campaign

Who: Via Rail, with Cossette for creative and strategy, Touché for media, Colossale for production (directed by Jeremy Comte), photography by Norman Wong, post-production by Chop Chop, and colour by Simon Boix.

What: A post-Covid “comeback” brand campaign from Canada’s passenger rail service. Not that Via went anywhere, but for the most part, people have been going nowhere for much of the past 18 months.

When & Where: The campaign includes online and pre-roll video, audio ads, display and DOOH, as well as CRM and in-station presence.

Why: With hopes rising that the worst of Covid is behind us, Via is encouraging travellers to return to the rails.

“Via Rail kept people moving throughout the pandemic and provided a safe environment for essential travel,” said Louis Lévesque, senior director, marketing communications at Via Rail Canada in a release. “However, as life slowly begins to resume, we’re happy to welcome back all our passengers so that they can once again enjoy the service they have come to know and love: A safe, accessible, comfortable and sustainable travel experience.”

“As travel advertising has dried up over the past 18 months, ad decay has allowed us to reintroduce the brand on a net new playing field—which is a terrific opportunity for Via Rail,” said Martin Soubeyran, VP media, group director at Touché.

How: The campaign centrepiece is an emotive 30-second video that opens in black-and-white, with scenes representing a world nearly frozen by Covid: People under umbrellas in the rain, moving in super slow-motion. “We had to put everything on pause,” says the narrator. “And all I could think of was this moment. This moment where we could move again. Like nothing can stop us.”

Smiles return to faces, the rain stops, an umbrella snaps shut, the ad switches to colour, with motion and joyous emotion restored.

“As this is our first campaign as part of our ridership recovery efforts, we felt we had to acknowledge what we’ve been through, but we also wanted to focus on the future and infuse positivity into our message,” said Lévesque.

The ad’s director, Jeremy Comte, was nominated for an Academy Award for his short film Fauve. The spot was shot at the Via Rail station in Ottawa using high-speed camera equipment for the slow-motion scenes that was meant to “deconstruct each micro moment and create a climate of tension,” said the release.

Stills in motion: For the digital banners and out-of-home ads, Cossette worked with photographer Norman Wong to “recreate the look and feel of a moving train.” Aside from shooting scenes around Toronto, mannequins for the people being featured were mounted on rails and shot while moving at high speed to create the blurred movement effect.

And we quote: “[W]e sought to create an impactful campaign that conveys emotions people could relate to. For those emotions to come across in an organic way, we focused on the quality of the craft and storytelling—choosing an approach that is more film than advertising.” —Gilles Legault, creative director, Cossette.

David Brown