Sunday, March 30, 2008

Amtrak, I'm Almost Proud of You

Design: Nice. Clean. It looks like the mid-20th Century advertising from the glory days of passenger rail service. Also gets points for eliminating "www" from the URL and not featuring a phone number.
Placement: Perfect. The last outdoor board right at the entrance to Orlando International Airport, reminding air travelers that there is an alternative to the frustration of flying.
Message: Clever, but flawed. You're telling people entering the airport, "You're about to be pissed off, standing in that dreadful line, taking your shoes off and emptying your pockets for TSA employees who hate being there as much as you do. You could be cruising on this majestic train along a palm dotted coast."

Had they stopped at "Far from the Maddening Crowds" it would be better, but someone had to add "of the security line," which leaves me wondering what kind of security Amtrak has. Further, that is not the only maddening crowd one encounters when flying. You've got the line to get your boarding pass and check your luggage. Then the security line, then the crowd getting on the tram. Then the crowd at the gate. Then the line getting on the plane. Then that really maddening time when as soon as the plane arrives at the destination gate, everyone unbuckles their seatbelt and jumps into the aisle to stand there for fifteen minutes, eager to be off the maddeningly crowded plane.

Further flawing this message is the use of the word "maddening," which really isn't a word Amtrak should be employing in its advertising. It reminds anyone with experience aboard Amtrak how maddening it can be to be way out in Middle of Nowhere, USA, stranded on a track for hours as you wait for freight trains, which Amtrak must yield to since they don't own the rails they use. It might also remind Amtrak passengers how maddening it can be to be waiting in a train station for hours as your train will invariably be delayed. It also might remind them that the cost of a train ticket is maddeningly more expensive than an airline ticket.

I'm not sure what Amtrak can ever do to overcome its many problems, (outlined humorously here in comic book form - with a more sober and maddening outline here) but they're on the right track (zing!) with this ad that plays on the illusion that train travel is fun, exciting and far more enjoyable than the alternative. I might've suggested something along the lines of "It's about the journey, not the destination," or "Getting there can be half the fun," or "No one has a fear of training."

All of my ranting about Amtrak stems from a love of train travel acquired in Germany. I'm actually trying to help. So here are some spec ads, Amtrak. They're a little bolder than you're used to, but you have nothing to lose at this point. I will work for you harder if you pay me. (Bring me up to DC on the Auto Train, which I've actually heard good things about. I'll even blog the journey positively. I'm talking to you, Emmett H. Fremaux.)

Previously in "Amtrak"
Amtrak SUCKS*
Amtrak Keeps Sucking
My Kingdom for A (Iron) Horse

*This blog ranks 5th on Google for the term "Amtrak Sucks."

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