KiwiRail chugs into the living room with two new TVCs

KiwiRail subsidiaries KiwiRail Freight and KiwiRail Scenic Journeys have released television commercials in an effort to remind New Zealanders that rail is still relevant and enjoyable. Auckland-based agency Hot Mustard took charge of the Freight campaign, while Wellington-based Clemenger BBDO was in the engine room at Scenic Journeys.

Jenni Austin, senior communications advisor at KiwiRail, said that KiwiRail has invested considerably in new locomotives and wagons for both Freight and Scenic Journeys in recent years, and that they felt “the timing was right to go back onto television (mass media) to raise greater awareness” of what KiwiRail could offer New Zealanders.

In August, the Herald reported that although KiwiRail was recording year-on-year revenue growth, the state-owned rail operator still had a long way to go to reach the $4.6 billion turnaround objective, which was set for 2020. According to the Herald, the Government had already invested $843 million in the project to help KiwiRail attract new business.

Jim Quinn, then-chief executive of KiwiRail, told the Herald, “There’s a lot of speculative debate about whether we need a railway or not, but if you talk about people who put money into the railway every day, they can’t think of anything more barking mad than New Zealand not having a railway.”

And the slick pair of ads by Clemenger BBDO and Hot Mustard aim to challenge the doubters by illustrating the contemporary value of both freight and touristic rail services.

When it came to selecting an agency for the Scenic Journeys TVC, Austin says that Clemenger BBDO was the obvious choice. She says, “KiwiRail Scenic Journeys have a long-standing relationship with ClemengerBBDO” and that they “are fully aligned with our brand and the direction that our business is taking.”

The Scenic Journeys commercial is a visual feast that moves from one sweeping landscape to the next. And rather than relying on the nostalgic clickety clack of the train, Clemenger instead uses The Pearl Fishers, an emotionally charged Italian opera by Bizet, to accompany the TVC. Austin says they brought on the local talent of two South Auckland-born tenors, Moses Mackay and Pene Pati, to perform the moving musical score that features in the advert.

“We deliberately avoided selecting music that tells a story or seeks to make a statement about New Zealand. The pictures and images are so visually powerful and New Zealand-centric that we focused primarily on finding an emotionally powerful and distinctive piece of music to complement this.” says Austin. 

Refusing to be outdone by their Wellington counterparts, Hot Mustard, who has been working with KiwiRail Frieght for three years, created an equally impressive ad that exhibits the utility, efficiency and industry of modern rail.

Jayson Houghton, creative director at Hot Mustard, said, “After 150 years of rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ in the background of New Zealanders’ awareness, KiwiRail Freight wanted to bring the ‘new, trimmed down and fighting fit’ brand into the living rooms and kitchens of the nation.”

The commercial shifts between scenes of industrial rail activities to those of a breakfasting family, thereby linking the two disparate activities and making them seem dependent on each other.

Houghton reflects on the ad by saying, “KiwiRail Freight is a genuine long haul, freight solutions provider riding on the success of an overhauled structure and new technology bringing everyday goods from their source of production to the shelves of the nation’s supermarkets and subsequently onto our morning toast.”

Austin says that the industry-inspired soundtrack, which was written specifically for the advert, “sought to build upon the natural noises created by rail activity.” She explains that they wanted the ad to tell an everyday story, while simultaneously showing that “rail freight has an important role to play in New Zealand’s integrated transport networks.”    

Interestingly, both ads have opted for the laconic approach by only using a few written words at the end. The KiwiRail Freight TVC ends with the tagline ‘We’ve got the power to move you New Zealand’ while the Scenic Journeys ad concludes with ‘Take a break. Take a train.’ The agencies have thereby tapped into the creative fundamental of ‘show, don’t tell’, while simultaneously appealing to an increasingly diversified New Zealand population, which now includes many people who don’t speak English as a first language.

Austin says KiwiRail has “been very pleased with the public response to the adverts” and that the Scenic Journeys advertisement in particular has “resonated with a wider audience than [they]had hoped for”.    

Credits for KiwiRail Freight:

Client: KiwiRail Freight
Agency: Hot Mustard
Creative director: Jayson Houghton
Account director: Shannon Vincent
Producer: Sam McCauley FSP

​Credits of KiwiRail Scenic Journeys:

Client: KiwiRail Scenic Journeys
Agency: Celemnger BBDO
Executive creative director: Philip Andrew
Agency producer: Martin Gray
Aerial camera: Aeroptics 
Helicopter camera: Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters 
Camera: Dan Monaghan 
Music: The Pearl Fishers 
Music performed by: Moses Mackay and Pene Pati
Sound production Company: Franklin Road
Group account director: Kevin Stroud
Account manager: Elena Babitcheva

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