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Close Encounters of the Train Kind

From the Dramatic, to the Romantic, and the Pragmatic;

Train travel encounters are popular filmic themes and scenes that appear across a broad spectrum of movie and advertising filmmaking genres.

Compelling crime and spy thriller adventures, love stories and even fairy tale scenarios provide opportunities for visually compelling rail-travel adventures.

However, to incentivise greater use of eco-friendly passenger rail services between city hubs and tourist destinations, it seems a new, pragmatic genre of train travel themes has arrived at the station.

European Spotlight on Environmentally Friendly Train Travel

Andrew Donaldson, in his weekly ‘A Famous Grouse’ column on PoliticsWeb, recently noted the following:

European governments and private rail companies are now considering investing in the return of long-distance night trains”.

“France, for example, is considering a ban on all domestic flights to destinations that could be reached by train in less than five hours”.

“It makes perfect sense in terms of environmental impact. A flight from Paris to Marseilles, let’s say, emits almost 180 kilograms of carbon dioxide per passenger compared with just more than four kilograms for the same journey by train”.

1. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Fly Responsibly

Advertising Agency: DDB Unlimited, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Production Company and Animation: CZAR, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

‘Fly Responsibly’ is a global call to action by KLM to the aviation industry and individual travellers to embrace a more responsible approach to the sustainability of travel by, between other measures, making more use of rail transport.

2. Deutsche Bahn AG, No Need to Fly Around the World in Germany

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy, Frankfurt, Germany

The Deutsche Bahn German Rail’s integrated campaign highlights the advantages of their interlinked rail services to many of Germany’s outstandingly beautiful locations for travel experiences that can compete with the best in the world, and besides being eco-friendly, are eminently more affordable.

3. Virgin Trains, Decision Time For Valerie

Advertising Agency: Anomaly, London, UK

Valerie is confronted with a decision about an upcoming business trip. Should she travel by car or by rail?

Directed by Tom Kutz, the commercial humourously visualises Valerie’s decision-making thought process that makes for rewarding viewing.

The soundtrack features Richard Devine’s rendition of the Spandau Ballet tune, ‘True’.

4. Virgin Trains, Very Fast Chair                                                    

Advertising Agency: Anomaly, London, UK

Directed by Keith Schofield, the commercial is an entertaining depiction of imagining what the ideal form of travel would be.

The amusing visual analogies highlight the food, entertainment, free WiFi and service available on Virgin Rail’s fast-moving trains to conclude that the ideal form of travel is already here.

5. Dow Chemical Company, Quiet Train

Advertising Agency: Draftfcb, Chicago, USA

The multinational, Michigan, USA, based Dow Chemical Company’s corporate ambition is to become the the world’s most scientifically focused corporation of innovative, consumer-centric solutions.

Among its many diverse endeavours such as gluten-free bread and boosting the efficacy of wind turbines, Dow Technology is also actively engaged in making rail travel more environmentally friendly by greatly reducing noise pollution levels.

Brilliantly directed by Nicolai Fuglisig, the analogous ‘Quiet Train’ commercial is about demonstrating the Dow Company’s commitment to the technical advancement of global quality of life solutions for all citizens.

The soundtrack features the great 1940 recording of ‘Whispering Grass’ by the ‘Ink Spots’.

6. SNCF, Europe Is Just Next Door

Advertising Agency: TBWA, Paris, France

SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer français) is France’s national, state-owned railway company.

They run the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) high-speed rail network across Europe with trains travelling at speeds reaching 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph).

The ‘Europe Is Just Next Door’ campaign was a brand activation to promote their new European city high-speed TGV links between Milan, Stuttgart, Geneva, Barcelona and Brussels.

But instead of staging the activation inside train stations, the aim was to get people to a station so the agency decided to take their campaign to the streets of Paris instead.

Mysterious doors were placed around the city with a great surprise waiting behind them for pedestrians curious enough to open them.

Eurostar, Stories Are Waiting

Simon Ratican directed this campaign of two commercials for Eurostar’s Cross-Channel rail service between St Pancras International, London, and Gard du Nord, Paris.

The ‘voice-over’ narrated stories are about unexpected encounters, promising social affiliation links between Paris and London and maybe, a lasting romance.

The scenarios are refreshingly devoid of Tourism Advertising genre clichés. Instead of the all too familiar travel theme of ‘life is a journey’, these stories thoughtfully propose that maybe ‘a journey is life’.

7. Eurostar, Stories Are Waiting In Paris

Advertising Agency: Abbot Mead Vickers BBDO, London, UK

8. Eurostar, Stories Are Waiting In London

Advertising Agency: Abbot Mead Vickers BBDO, London, UK

(Narrated in French with English sub-titles.)

9. Eurostar, See More in One Trip

Advertising Agency: Contra, London, UK

Directed by David Hayes, this online commercial promoting the two hours and twenty minutes journey on the Eurostar’s high-speed rail travel from the center of London to the center of Paris, and vice versa, involves a charming idealised story that results in a ‘good-feel’ viewing experience.

10. CHANEL No 5, Night Train

Directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet, this classic commercial with its stylish imagery stars French actress Audrey Tautou. The story about a romantic encounter on the famous Orient Express train from Paris to Istanbul plays out against the haunting strains of Billie Holiday’s ‘I’m A Fool To Want You’.

Conceived in-house by Chanel, the commercial is a fitting homage to the brand’s long heritage of sophisticated French elegance, and CHANEL No 5’s legendary seductive influence on passionate affairs of the heart.

11. Debenhams Department Store, You Shall

Advertising Agency: J. Walter Thompson, London, UK

Directed by Hanna Maria Heidrich this Cinderella inspired fairy tale was part of an integrated festive season Debenhams campaign of TV, outdoor, social media, digital and print media.

Filmed in Budapest, the story of a chance encounter on a train between Ellie and her potential Prince Charming, results in them attempting to reunite.

They each launch their own social media searches; #FindMyShoe and #FindThatGirl and fortunately, the intervention of Ewan McGregor ensures a proper fairytale ending.

12. Heineken, The SKYFALL Express

Advertising Agency: Wieden+Kennedy, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

To coincide with the launch of the 007 ‘Skyfall’ feature film, the commercial features appearances by James Bond actor Daniel Craig and Skyfall actress Berenice Marlohe.

The story centers on some villains pursuing a young man on a train who they mistake for Bond. When they finally spot their correct target, 007 quickly escapes with a ‘Skyfall’.

The fast paced action was skillfully directed by Matthijs van Heijningen in typical Bond fashion with the addition of some some amusing interludes that are highly rewarding to view.

The soundtrack song titled ‘A Man Like That’, is by New Zealand songstress Gin Wigmore.