Virgin Trains’ New Roadside Billboards Use Real-Time Traffic Data to Heckle Drivers

Why are you driving in this mess?

When you’re sitting stuck in traffic on your morning commute, you might find yourself particularly susceptible to an ad suggesting an alternate mode of transportation.

That, at least, is the thinking behind a smart new reactive U.K. digital billboard campaign from Virgin Trains, which tailors the message it serves to passing drivers based on data about real-time traffic and road conditions it draws from Google.

“Avoid all this bleeping traffic,” reads one rush-hour display. “Leeds to London, 2 hours and 14 minutes,” it promises.

At a traffic light in Newcastle, meanwhile, vehicle recognition technology targets the drivers of particular types of cars. “Hey silver Ford driver, stop seeing red,” it opens, in a manner that’s sure to creep out some less open-minded consumers. “Don’t get cross on the road,” it follows, as if magically sensing the rage its stalker-like demeanor might inspire. “Newcastle to London 3 hours 7 minutes.”

The campaign, titled “Why Drive Yourself Crazy,” launched Monday and will run through Feb. 12. Agencies Krow, Manning Gottlieb OMD and Talon all contributed to the effort, as did production company Grand Visual and media companies Ocean Outdoor, City Outdoor and 8 Outdoor.

Virgin Train is billing the ads as part of a broader shift toward more innovative marketing. “Digital out-of-home is the perfect fit for our marketing campaign because it intercepts active consumers with highly targeted messages as they move through their day,” says Emma Jansons, marketing manager at Virgin Trains on the east coast. “The medium is working hard, reacting to traffic conditions and providing contextually relevant messages that resonate with road users to pull out the pain points of driving over catching the train.”

Commuters who succumb to the timely messaging, meanwhile, can at the very least rest assured that if they’re riding Virgin Trains, the brand probably won’t continue to drive them crazy with personally targeted ads.