Monday 3 October 2016

Credit Where It's Due

I will never get invited by Frank Skinner to appear on Room 101. This s a shame as it means I'll never get the chance to vent my spleen on national TV about one of my pet hates that has festered inside me from a very early age - advertising and in particular advert actors and/or adverts that treat us as complete idiots. Just who are these people meant to be who you see in posters and leaflets with their perfect nuclear family, with their ridiculously perfect white teeth, in their spotless kitchen at 0730, in solitude on a deserted beach or having the immaculate hotel pool to themselves without a German towel or beer bellied tattooed ignorant Brit in sight.

Anyway before I burst a blood vessel let me get to the point. Transport advertising is no better. Tell me honestly have you ever seen anyone in a bus/train advert within a country mile of a bus stop or rail station? Me neither so who exactly are the companies aiming at?  This is the sort of thing I'm talking about.

Just No!!!
That is just unrealistic and we all know it. For a start those kids can't see out of the window and they're not arguing over who sits in the inside. I admit to be rather scathing over ads like that, and also ads that make outrageous claims. Only the other day Stagecoach Norfolk tweeted this, although I suspect it's a national campaign as I seem to remember choking over it somewhere before.

Never enough hours in a day? Buy your ticket online & buy yourself a little extra 'me' time!

Excuse me? Can anyone explain this? So you spend at least 15 mins buying a ticket online by time you've registered, logged in, got past the intrusive advertising, attempted to buy the wrong ticket, gone back and found the right ticket, entered your card number six times, gone through bank clearance etc etc etc. So let's enjoy all the extra "me" time you're going to get. Do you have to leave home the same time. Yes, as the fact you bought your ticket online won't change the bus timetable so it will still turn up (hopefully) at the same time. So no time gained there. Paying the driver takes around 10 - 15 seconds but that can hardly be regarded as "me" time. So where is this time you speak of O Stagecoach. Was that tweet/ad really thought out? Anyway the downside with smart ticketing is if your phone malfunctions, or you forget it, lose it, have it stolen or just run out of battery then you have no proof you have a ticket, and a couple of hours overtime could make the difference. Prepaid smart card fine, but they have been around for decades - I was accepting them on buses in 1994.

First are not immune either. Earlier in the year I stopped following all but one of First's Twitter accounts as they seemed far more interested in updating their customers on the activities of a plastic garden gnome called Norman than they were in updating customers on how the buses were running, which for your information, First, is why people follow the accounts. Even various First people I spoke to agreed with me, so where that idea came from beats me. Someone who drives to and from work no doubt. So now the only First account I follow is for some bizarre reason First East Scotland, and today they tweeted something worth tweeting, linking to a piece connected to Customer Service Week. 

Something that has been highlighted this year, with the cuts in disability benefits is the issue of "hidden disability". If someone is missing a leg, has a guide dog, a second head etc everyone can see it and make allowances. However can you tell if someone is deaf by looking at them? Epileptic? Dementia? Of course not, and nether can bus drivers, so First have come up with what I think is an admirable initiative. This is actually a re-launch as the original launch did well but First want to encourage more to take it up. Quite simply, and it is so simple, the passenger has a card telling the driver what their hidden problem is so he/she knows to make the appropriate allowances. I'm going to reproduce the majority of the press release as I think it is such a good idea. Now this sort of advertising I'm all for, and no unrealistic characters or claims involved.

The UK’s leading bus operator, First Bus, is helping celebrate National Customer Service Week (3-7 October) by relaunching its industry leading ‘Safe Journey Cards’ and ‘Better Journey Cards’, which are designed to help customers use the bus.

Their introduction has helped many people use public transport where previously they have faced difficulties. The cards allow the passenger to discreetly communicate a specific message to the driver. This can include:

  • ‘Please scan my pass for me’
  • ‘Please count out my change with me’
  • ‘Please speak slowly, I am hard of hearing’
  • ‘Please wait for me to sit down’
  • ‘Please be patient, I have a hidden disability’, which can include the effects of Alzheimer’s for instance.
  • ‘Please tell me when we reach my destination’ – the passenger can fill this in with the appropriate location. 
  • There are also sections where the customer can customise his/her own message to the driver.

The cards have proven to be so successful that they have been adopted by much of the UK Bus industry. First Bus has relaunched them this week to encourage more people to use and benefit from them.

Managing Director of First Bus, Giles Fearnley, said: “Customer Service Week is a much celebrated event and a good opportunity to re-launch our Safe Journey Cards and Better Journey Cards.

“These cards offer our customers a way of discreetly communicating with our drivers. Quite often people want to ask for assistance, but they’re unsure how best to do it. While customers can, of course, just ask for any help they need, not everyone finds this easy, or is able to speak clearly. In these instances, these cards give people a way of asking for assistance in a simple, easy and discreet way.

“The feedback we’ve received from those that use them has been exclusively positive. We want to remind customers of their availability, so if a passenger chooses to use them, they can travel by bus with more confidence.  I’m really pleased to be re-launching them this week.”

So in a world full of misleading, patronising, unrealisitc advertising well done First. I think this is a brilliant scheme, and I look forward to other operators following suit and really pubicising it..  In the meantime I'll work on my other picks for Room 101. Window hangers watch out.....


  1. The award for the most cringe worthy advertising goes to First with this...

    1. Oh my dear God that is truly awful. Anyone waiting for half hour in the dark, rain and wind in Martlesham will think of that ad and feel comforted!

  2. My favourite tweet by FEC has to be about the X1 is delayed due to a manhole cover . No information on what section or were ...... ! Then another 50% of our buses now have WiFi . Wow a 50/50 chance of getting on one . Quick phone a friend ! It seems there is no thought by the " Marketing Department " .

  3. Andrew Kleissner4 October 2016 at 16:51

    I also notice that, for some time now, FEC buses have proclaimed on their rear windows that they have "luxurious leather seats". Granted, the travelling environment is important - but do they really think that will tempt people out of their cars?

    (Anyway, I much prefer good London Transport moquette - your bum grips to it when the bus zooms round a corner!)

  4. Ipswich buses striking on 10th October