Cannes Lions

The 6-million-kilometre ticket

COSSETTE, Montreal / VIA RAIL CANADA / 2019

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Overview

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Overview

Background

As Canada’s national passenger rail service, VIA Rail operates intercity, regional and transcontinental trains linking over 400 communities across the country.

2018 marked its 40th anniversary and coincided with the announcement of the acquisition of a more efficient and greener fleet of new trains (among other modernization projects). This signalled the beginning of VIA Rail’s journey to reshape the way Canadians travel. A fitting time to take stock, but also an opportunity to renew the company’s commitment towards a more sustainable future.

While most of the celebration efforts were dedicated to branding and internal initiatives, objectives such as winning share of heart and marking VIA’s transformation needed to be met. But with less than $200K to reach all Canadians, coming up with engaging ways to celebrate a legacy that was about to be replaced was a real challenge.

Idea

Designing a bespoke item wasn’t part of the brief.

It was at the core of the idea.

Repurposing the past to move forward, we took a train truck that had recently been removed from service and gave it a second life, literally. Instead of sending this old friend to the scrap heap, we melted it to create a limited edition anniversary tickets. Using steel that had travelled over 6 million kilometres on more than 1,000 trips across the country, we allowed 40 lucky Canadians (and the person of their choice) to add a few more kilometres to the tally as they experienced our country in a way only the train allows.

We intended the emblematic nature of the gesture to drive interest and envy for the tickets.

Plus, melting a train made for some great content to promote the contest.

Execution

Every step and element of the design process was geared towards creating as meaningful a symbol of VIA Rail’s 40-year heritage reshaping itself towards a brighter future as possible. The retired train was torn apart, piece by piece, in VIA Rail’s maintenance centre, by the very employees who had taken care of it throughout its useful lifetime. We worked with the foundry artisans to preserve the raw and travelled feel of the steel, keeping the 40-year heritage alive by refraining from polishing it, among other things.

We used the same maintenance and machining tools used during the train’s lifetime to engrave the multi-layered anniversary emblem, which was meticulously hand-painted using the same paint VIA Rail uses for markings on its trains. To instill a notion of modernity, we turned to laser-engraving to imprint passengers’ information and carefully packaged each ticket in a recycled box.

Outcome

The “6-million-kilometre ticket” became a powerful symbol of VIA Rail’s rich heritage and commitment towards a more sustainable future—a one-of-a-kind experience designed to last a lifetime.

On social networks as well as in the media, conversation around the one-of-a-kind ticket generated over 14 million earned impressions. And more than a quarter million Canadians from all across the nation participated in the contest, which is five times more than VIA Rail’s previous initiative of a similar nature.

Extra executions of the ticket have become honorary presents given to special guests (officials, etc.).