Ad of the Day: Norfolk Southern

RP3's toy story positions the railroad as a force for economic growth

The Norfolk Southern railroad is looking to score real political points with a new ad campaign, timed to the national conventions, centered on a magical world of make-believe.

A new spot from Maryland's RP3 Agency and the digital masterminds at The Mill (which also directed) aims to position Norfolk Southern—and freight rail in general—as a continuing force for economic growth for America. The commercial opens with a young boy playing trains in his bedroom. After the boy goes to bed, the train's flickers once again to life, and the whole bedroom becomes like a scene from Toy Story. Dolls and stuffed animals emerge from their hiding places, and a whole city is formed—with skyscrapers, factories, highways and a port. "Wherever our trains go, the economy comes to life. Norfolk Southern. One line, infinite possibilities," the voiceover says, as the camera pulls back to show the whole bustling scene—as the boy wakes up and stares in wonder.

Norfolk Southern wants to bring this message of relevance directly to politicians and voters during the national political conventions. The spot breaks today and will air on broadcast and cable until the end of November. Norfolk Southern will also have a strong presence at both the Republican National Convention (Aug. 27 and 29) and the Democratic National Convention (Sept. 4 and 5), including sponsorship of CNN's election coverage.

The spot is a visual delight—par for the course for The Mill. "Children and adults have strong emotional connections to trains. Using CGI allowed us to convey the imagination and wonder so many of us as adults still have for trains from our childhood play," says RP3 cd Jim Lansbury. "Both in fantasy and in reality, railroads are a source of awe."

"One of the neat things about 'City of Possibilities' is its optimistic tone," adds Frank Brown, assistant vp for corporate communications at Norfolk Southern. "We aren't fancy, but the transportation services we provide are critical to industry at home and American competitiveness globally. We help our customers and communities grow, and that's a continuing success story."


Client: Norfolk Southern

Agency: RP3 Agency, Bethesda, Md.

Creative Director/Copywriter: Jim Lansbury

Associate Creative Director: Chris Sheldon

Producer: Donna Schoch-Spana

Audio Engineer: Steve Rosen/Sonic Union

Original Music and Sound Design: Human

Production Company/Effects: The Mill

Directors: Angus Kneale & Ben Smith

Executive Producer: Ian Bearce


Nic Barnes (Live Action)

Boo Wong (VFX/Post Production)


Ryan McKenna (Editor)

Alex Trierweiler (Assistant Editor)

Director of Photography: Bill Pope


Chris Bernier (Project Lead Artist)

Jeff Lopez (Animation Lead)

Tom Bardwell (Lighting Lead)

Joji Tsuruga (FX Lead)

Zang Chen

Alex Cheparev

Maxime Cousseau

Sam Crees

Sean Curran

Justin Diamond

Stanley Ilin

Nicholas Johnnides

Christina Ku

Justin Kurtz

Jeffrey Lee

Paul Liaw

Iván Luque Cuellár

Laurent Makowski

Justin Maynard

Ross Scroble

Navdeep Singh

Hassan Taimur

Olivier Varteressian

Sauce Vilas

James Williams

John Wilson

Zhenting Zhou


Kyle Cody (2D Lead Artist)

Erin Nash

Shoot Supervisors:

Naotaka Minami

Corey Brown


Damien Van Der Cruyssen (Colorist)


Tim Haldeen (Lead Artist)

Tom Losinski

Gap Sangpattharamatee

Jae Kim

Bryan Louie

Jane Ro

Morgan Schweitzer