Amtrak Gets in Faces of Riders

“It’s pretty hard to get things noticed in Los Angeles,” admitted Cyndi Darlington, senior director of West Coast marketing for Amtrak.
Maybe that’s why the commuter rail line commissioned the one promotion that would appeal to car-crazed, sun-blanched Angelinos: a face-lift.
“We had to come up with something that was relevant to our target market,” said E. James White Communications creative director Bill Puckett with a laugh. “People into the ‘body by DuPont’ look.”
Puckett and associate creative director Pat Cunningham also stirred a bit of Tinseltown hype into the mix: “Your face could stop a train” is the tagline the Herndon, Va., agency conceived in its rebranding effort for the Pacific Surfliner, an Amtrak service ferrying travelers between San Diego and San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Early results for the promotion–which offers $5,000 toward a face-lift to a grand prize winner–indicate the effort is working. Amtrak ridership during June was up 6 percent as more than 10,000 entries poured in over the first month of the promotional giveaway. Other prizes include health spa visits and cosmetic makeovers.
Amtrak is adding new equipment, renovating stations and upgrading amenities on the venerable southern California line, so the face-lift theme was particularly appropriate. “A face-lift is like so ridiculous, so absurd that it’s relevant,” said Puckett.
The agency produced billboards, point-of-sale displays, Web site links, ticket stuffers and other collateral materials distributed at train stations around the country. The promotional effort will continue over the next two months.
The agency has worked with Amtrak on a project basis for more than two decades.
That relationship, Puckett said, should boost the agency’s chances in the ongoing review [Adweek, July 17] for the railroad’s estimated $35 million ad account.
Two shops now handle Amtrak’s account: DDB Worldwide, which has been on board since 1972, a year after Congress created the federally funded commuter line, is the lead agency. White is responsible for promotions. Lowe Lintas & Partners formerly supported Amtrak’s Intercity business from its Chicago office, which closed last spring.