Best low-budget campaign
Launching the Elizabeth Line
Transforming transport in London
Transport for London
By the time that Crossrail had been handed over to Transport for London, it had become a byword for delays and budget overruns. Turning the delivery of Europe’s largest infrastructure project into a moment of national pride and unity was an enormous task for TfL, but also vital for its longer-term financial sustainability.
The objective was to create a campaign that drove ridership from day one, but also highlighted the importance of public transport investment and mitigated any lasting negative sentiments from earlier challenges.
The strategy was to create a drumbeat of stories, culminating in the launch, that targeted media outlets across the spectrum – local, regional, national, international, consumer and trade. These stories focused on a timeline of operational milestones, which were repurposed as communications interventions, and focused on building human interest to tell the story of the scale and impact of the new railway.
A small team managed 40 pre-launch media and stakeholder events. Local and national journalists were joined by their international counterparts, while editors and commentators were briefed to ensure they understood the complexities faced by the Elizabeth Line and its far-reaching benefits.
These events generated several supportive articles in advance of launch, and ensured a positive tone for launch day. This strategy appeared to mitigate any potentially negative commentary about the delays to opening Bond Street Station and shorter operating hours for a period of time after launch.
Transport for London also worked with suppliers, such as Alstom and Siemens, to generate regional coverage while third parties, such as Isle of Wight-based manufacturer AJ Wells, which produced signage such as roundels and illuminated fascia, were encouraged to share their stories, demonstrating how the railway had supported jobs across the country.
Other innovative touches included partnering with social media influencers, including Francis Bourgeois, who has 2.7 million followers on TikTok alone, offering them exclusive content, and orchestrating a mention on Eastenders. A BBC documentary on the Elizabeth Line was described as ‘like Top Gear for trains’.
A week before the formal launch, the late Queen, Earl of Wessex, former prime minister Boris Johnson and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan visited Paddington Station, which resulted in coverage across the world, including an iconic image of the Queen using an Oyster card.
In the run up to launch, Santander Cycles and Cable Car gondolas were wrapped in Elizabeth Line branding, 20 iconic London landmarks, such as Tower Bridge and The Gherkin, turned purple, limited edition Elizabeth Line Oyster cards were produced and 20 corgis turned up at Canary Woof station.
From 17 to 25 May, the campaign delivered more than 3,600 print and online articles alongside 155 pieces of broadcast coverage. Passengers from around the world queued to travel on the first Elizabeth Line train, and in the first week more than one million journeys were undertaken in the central section alone. Independent research from YouGov also revealed that a quarter of all Londoners visited the Elizabeth Line in the first two months of operation, with one in three journeys undertaken just for the experience.
The judges were impressed by the ‘sheer scale, complexity and range of media activities’ undertaken by the team, which they described as ‘mind-blowing, and so were the results’.