2017 Winners

Winter Way to Travel

VIA Rail Canada

Gold Media Agency of the Year: Touché!

Despite its high appreciation rate, VIA Rail, Canada's national rail passenger service, is still a small player in transportation. In fact, 77% of the transportation between the cities of Toronto and Montreal (VIA’s most lucrative corridor) is still travelled by car. VIA Rail needed to find a new way to increase its share of the transportation market.

Canadian travellers can expect the worst during winter. Blizzards, heavy snowfalls and freezing rain all have an impact on their travel plans. Each winter, many Canadians miss their appointments because of the weather. This is felt hardest by business travellers.

However, amid these harsh conditions, trains have proven to be a reliable and superior means of transportation, unlike cars or airplanes.

North American winters offered agency Touché! the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the power of weather data to increase VIA’s share of the transportation market.

The strategic solution started with analytics. The agency analyzed VIA Rail’s daily sales reports and compared them to historical data from The Weather Network.
The findings noted a significant increase of visits to the VIA Rail website five days before snowstorms.

Touché! turned this into a data-driven campaign to keep Canada moving – no matter the weather.

The team set out to create massive reach against car drivers, starting exactly five days before the storm hit a specific region. In a country as vast as Canada, it meant that the campaign was never activated at the same time across the different regions.

The launch of each campaign was activated by The Weather Network storm alert. To reach weather-sensitive business travellers, the agency cross-segmented VIA Rail’s data with its data management platform technology, utilizing second and third-party data to intercept and retarget the segments most responsive to weather changes. The team then leveraged these new audiences through a fully-integrated display, mobile and OOH campaign, all activated by the weather.

Storm messaging to business travellers was activated through a dynamic display, mobile and OOH campaign, which all pre-warned the audience of impending travel chaos caused by the weather. The agency progressively upweighted this messaging as the storm got closer, and messages were personalized in real-time according to user location, expected destination, day of the storm and type of storm. A booking engine was also integrated into the digital placements so travellers could book straight from the ad.

Additionally, for mobile the team partnered with The Weather Network and Waze to access their heavy weather-app users and driver audiences respectively, and a layer of hyper-location segmentation around airports was also added to reach travellers stuck at airports.

Lastly, strategically located digital OOH billboards were activated within three hours of weather alerts. Each buy was planned for five days, but the agency negotiated the ability to cancel if the storm was small.

-Demonstrating VIA Rail is the “Winter Way to Travel” helped gain 43% more passengers during the period following the storms on its lucrative route between Toronto and Montreal.
-The media activation also created an increase of up to 319% in conversions versus VIA’s regular campaigns.

By smartly using data and media, VIA Rail helped thousands of Canadian travellers outsmart winter and get to their meetings.

This campaign is a real demonstration of how to manage data and media to solve a real people's problem with a relevant client service solution. By smartly using data, the team identified that interest in train travel as a car alternative peaks five days prior to an upcoming storm. They also cross-segmented some data to reach the weather-sensitive business travellers.