KiwiRail puts Kiwis in the driver’s seat with Oculus Rift-powered campaign for National Rail Safety Week

For this year’s edition of National Rail Safety Week, KiwiRail and TrackSafe NZ have followed in the New Zealand Transport Agency’s footsteps by launching a game to get their message across to the masses.    

In conjunction with advergaming specialists InGame, KiwiRail has developed a virtual reality train simulator that gives users an opportunity to see things from the perspective of a train operator.
The simulator uses Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets and is currently on show at shopping centres and transport centres in Auckland, Wellington, Masterton and Christchurch as part of an experiential campaign managed on-location by Fluxx (the machine will be at Auckland’s Sylvia Park on 16  and 17 August). And if one Russian user’s experience with Oculus Rift is anything to go by, then Kiwis are in for quite a train ride. 

Those brave enough to don the headset will have a photo taken using the Smile Dealers social media app, which instantaneously brands the image with safety messages before posting it to the user’s Facebook page. 

The campaign also extends to the TrackSafe Facebook page, where users can play the game without the pricy virtual reality equipment—and much like in the NZTA’s game, things end badly for the player.      

In addition to these experiential executions, the campaign also features the more traditional elements of out-of-home executions and targeted radio advertising through its partnership with TRN. 

“Work Communications pulled together the visual identity of the campaign,” says KiwiRail spokesperson Matt Poland. “They designed the billboards and wrote the radio scripts that are being used as part of the campaign.”  

The diverse aspects at play in the campaign provide an indication of the segmentation of the media landscape. Creative advertising agencies no longer have the guarantee of picking up the whole campaign, and many modern campaigns demand a high level of collaboration between discrete agencies. 

“This is a truly integrated campaign mixing experiential, social media, outdoor, radio, gamification and new technology,” says Poland. “It’s a great platform to work on for future years and we’re excited about how we can build on this … The KiwiRail communications team led the idea generation and strategy and we brought in agencies that were tried and trusted specialists in their field. Work Communications, InGame, Smile Dealers and Fluxx have delivered stellar results.”   

Poland says that KiwiRail deliberately decided not to use solitary television advertisement, because the team wanted something that could generate more engagement for a longer period of time. 

“The creative angle for this year’s campaign was to share rail safety messages through the eyes of KiwiRail’s train drivers and we had a real focus on building a deeper level of engagement than what traditional social marketing or advertising allows,” he says. “Using gamification and Oculus Rift technology to put people in the driver’s seat of a train fit this strategy perfectly.”

This approach seems to have paid off, with Poland saying that more than 6,000 people have played the simulator online, TrackSafe has tripled its number of Facebook likes to over 1,400 and the campaign has attracted significant media attention. And these results will be welcomed by KiwiRail, given the gravity of the issue.  

At the time of writing, there have been 16 collisions involving freight trains, with five fatalities in four separate incidents. In addition there have been 68 near collisions reported, although the actual incidence is likely to be much higher.

According to a KiwiRail, it takes up to a kilometre to stop a train hauling 1500 tonnes of cargo, and this, said KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy in a release, is why it is important for Kiwis to see things from the perspective of train drivers—a theme reinforced by a series of YouTube videos featuring drivers sharing their experiences.


“I am horrified to hear the stories from our drivers of the many instances that they see motorists ignoring flashing lights and bells, or driving through level crossings protected with ‘give way’ or ‘stop’ signs just ahead of their train,” said Reidy. “We urge motorists to always approach a level crossing prepared to stop. They should always obey the alarms or road signs and never enter the crossing until they have checked both ways to ensure there is enough time to cross safely.”

The campaign was launched on 12 August in Wellington by the Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse, and runs until 17 August.

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