Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Customer Disservice Industry, Now More Deficient Than Ever!

Evil Willow uses public transport. Why don't you?

It all began last year: in an attempt to make their trains and trams run in a more orderly and friendly fashion, Connex decided to instill a culture of fear and suspicion. Whimsical messages targeting fare evaders appeared on trains and trams. "The other customers are paying your fares," they cheerily reminded you (it not mattering greatly whether you were guilty or no: in the absence of a guilty party, you'll do) "Perhaps you should mow their lawn." Other messages asked fare-evaders if they would like to treat the paying passengers to a nice dinner? One even noted that those who travelled using a concession ticket were only half-paying: perhaps they would like to get off half way?
The advertising campaign that came after that took a different tack. Unappealing characters with vaguely autistic tendencies began to appear on state television muttering incomprehensible ciphers and haranguing potential customers. The slogan was, "Buying a Ticket Before You Get On Board Saves Time Or Problems Later." This shortened - although perhaps 'shortened' is the wrong word - to BATBYGOBSTOPL. Connex described this as "an annoyingly catchy acronym", the first adjective being the operative one.
More recent advertising campaigns by Connex have been rather lacklustre. During early spring, they took to the habit of posting bad poetry on train walls. In the past month or two, a series of posters hung up around stations (perhaps in an attempt to reinforce the fare evader message) showed beaming mannequins in Connex uniforms, and bears a slogan with rather disturbing implications: "Looking after you in more ways than one."
Lately, some new ads have been appearing on television which, as Helen, the Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony, notes, carry on in the tradition of bad Connex ads 'which actually put you off buying the product.'
Wretched souls, washed in a blue-grey arthouse ambience and dreadfully expensive lighting, struggled through streets and over pavements, literally carrying others, to hysterically tragic music, like some modern day Victor Hugo ripoff. I was bemused. The role of advertising is to portray the product or service in a flattering light, but this seemed like a realistic portrayal of the hellish journey through Footscray "premium" (hah!) station to the fourth circle of Hell City Loop, complete with the wails of the damned...

Nevertheless, we eventually worked it out: the Don't Hold Others Back campaign is to inform us that we, the passengers, are the cause of all the trouble. Yes, forget about the cancellation of the 5.11 and the Faulty Train at Flinders Street which the crackling PA is ranting about. It's YOU, you wretch, you're thirty seconds late and you'll make the train wait for you! Which makes us all suffer!
There is, in fact, a clear theme to all of these Connex ads, and I believe they are not intended to put you off buying the product: it's fairly obvious that they are doing their best to promote their product to the wide and diverse sado-masochistic autistic Stalinist mentally-deranged criminal bogan demographic. As a matter of fact, I'm so impressed with this bold advertising venture, that I'd like to suggest future ads in Connex's campaign in which their appeal to this demographic becomes ever more clearer and evident.

The first ad that comes to mind will be designed at showcasing the diversity of people found on Connex trains. The message will be: Connex attracts a wide variety of sociopaths. Why don't you join us?

( To be played to suitably jaunty music, perhaps Ben Lee's 'That's The Way I Like It' or Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony.)

SCENE: Awakened by the bright beams of the sun shining in through his window, a Man springs from the bed to greet the day, with a broad, jocund smile right across his face! His wife tumbles out of the other side of the bed, but the Man keeps smiling!

CUT TO: Man at the breakfast table, still smiling and eating his breakfast. His wife burns her lips on the coffee. The Man keeps smiling.

CUT TO: Man is smiling at himself in the bathroom mirror and shaving. He cuts himself shaving and frowns. Then he looks up and in the mirror sees his neighbour climb a ladder, have a heart attack, and fall to the ground. The Man begins to smile again.

CUT TO: Man is walking across the road to the train station. He sees the train begin to pull into the station. Still smiling, he rushes past a little old lady on her walking frame and her poodle, pushing them all into the oncoming traffic. Hearing the sound of cars screech and collide, he keeps smiling.

CUT TO: Man opens train door.

Everyone in the train turns to look at him. Their faces are all gripped in identical, maniacal smiles.



After the success of this initial advertising campaign, I envisage following it up fairly rapidly with a series of posters to be hung up around train stations. The intention of these posters will be twofold: 1) to instil fear and a respect for authority in the existing train going public. 2) To further attract sadists to be part of Connex.

We see a train full of identical-looking travellers. They are all wearing grey business suits and have cavernous hollows where their eyes should be. They are all reading the same self-help book by Anthony Robbins, and their mouths are slightly open so that their teeth show. In the bea, of the electronic train lighting, their teeth glint and gleam like fangs.



On one side of the train, we see the Partridge family, bathed in an impossibly golden light, the sort you only see in artworks for Jehova's Witness booklets. They are smiling and laughing warmly.

On the other side of the train, we see an unshaven old man, writhing on the floor in pain.

In the middle of the floor, we see a Dalek, training its electronic death rays onto the elderly malefactor.




Although it is possible that viewers may be slightly offended by the abstract element in these ads, I believe they will more than make up for this by winning over the small but important Geek/Psychopath demographic.
Above all, it is vital that this ad campaign attracts more customers and broadens the customer base amongst freaks across the nation. So from time to time, it will be necessary for the ads to be sentimental in nature, and to emphasise the simple appeal of masochism for all types of people. My final ad will therefore return to a much-loved theme: fare evasion.

SCENE: An ordinary train, covered in graffiti and chewing gum, and scattered with MX papers. It is full of seemingly normal people: an unshaven bum swigging alcohol; a bogan girl giving a head job to her bogan boyfriend; a guy injecting up in the corner; another guy pissing on the doors; several children running up and down the train, banging one another with leaky stuffed dolls; and a Goth reading the Malleus Malleficarum and weeping softly to herself.

CAPTION/ANNOUNCER: This train is not as normal as it might seem.

CUT TO: Several black-and-white stills of the passengers.

CAPTION/ANNOUNCER: One of these people is a Fare Evader.

CUT TO: Ticketing inspectors entering onto the train and striding purposefully down the corridor to snare-drums, a la 'The Third Man' or the East German Stasi.

CUT TO: Glose up of GOTH, looking very nervous.

CUT TO: Shot of ticketing agents approaching Goth.

CUT TO: Extreme close up of Goth, tugging at her spiked collar.

CUT TO: Ticketing agents stopping in front of Goth.

TICKETING AGENT ONE: Hallo. Ve vould like to speak to you.


GOTH: But ... (reaches into pocket for ticket)

TICKETING AGENT ONE: There are no 'buts' here! (Reaching into his own pocket and half-drawing out a gun suggestivelly)

TICKETING AGENT TWO: I vould do as he says. Ve haf vays of making you comply.

(They both take hold of her arms and drag her off the train)

GOTH: No! It's not fair! You can't do this to me! I have rights! HEEEEEELLLLLLLLPPPPP!!!

CAPTION/ANNOUNCER: Fare evasion is THEFT! If you are a Fare Evader, then we will find you out.

(Over the black screen, we can hear the GOTH'S bloodcurdling screams.)

CUT TO: Image of TICKETING AGENT ONE massaging GOTH'S feet, while TICKETING AGENT TWO brings her a martini.

GOTH: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHHH!!! NOOOOO, NOT THAT! (Breaks down). I admit - I used a zone one ticket to travel to a zone two stations! (Weeps) I thought I could get away with it!!!



I could go on and on, for much longer than this post. Perhaps you would like to suggest some future advertising campaigns for Connex in comments.


Caz said...

I’m gob smacked, as opposed to BATBYGOBSTOPLED.

TimT said...

The slogan always vaguely reminded me of the 'Ever Lasting Gobstoppers' from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Daniel said...

If you make the posters (e.g. as downloads) I will take them and put them up at stations. I await your downloads with baited breath.

TimT said...

OMG, this idea COULD have legs ... Unfortunately, I only have Paintshop, not Photoshop ... but I would seriously PAY to see a couple of these round Parliament and Dandenong and some of the other, seedier stations...

anthony said...

hey this is good stuff.

keep it up.

Mark said...

Evil Willow can ride my bus anyday.

Especially if she brings her flute.

Daniel said...

Parliament (Station) is skanky? I always find it fine. Now Richmond on the other hand...

TimT said...

It is the basement of the city, it's made entirely out of plastic, they play awful muzak, and it smells. Apart from that, it's horrible.

Don Quixote said...

How about 'Connex: private enterprise getting you where you need to be'?

Dandenong is not a fun station to find oneself at 11PM on a Saturday night.

TimT said...

Ha, sounds like you've got a fun story about Dandenong station and the late night inhabitants - maybe several!

TimT said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TimT said...

Interestingly, I'm not sure how much of the transport system is actually private. It's essentially a set of different services - ticket distribution, ticket collection, train driving, train track signals, station maintenance, the maintenance of train and track, driver training, etc - most of which are probably still controlled by the Department of Infrastructure. I went for a cruise on the Connex website to try and find out, but they're vague on the details.

Anonymous said...

Gosh golly Tim, you have shown me up, I completely forgot BATBYGOBSTOPL.

Great post- If you're thinking of culture jamming, could you do some versions of "do something for the passengers who have bought tickets and paid for your trip"? Like, "Do something for the customers Connex, like provide a decent service"?

Cast Iron Balcony

TimT said...

Polyester Books have a couple of culture jamming Connex ads that they sell. Maybe I should speak to them!

Anonymous said...

I work for Connex, I won't give you my name.

I have to say, your article is a pisser, but I have to say a few things.

9/10 when a train is late, it's because some dickhead held the doors open for his mate. Have that happening 5 stations in a row, and you have yourself a pain in the arse delay.

Also, Customer Service Officers aren't German/ Russian. However, a few of them do wish they had guns.

Trains get cancelled for various reasons. The most common is damage eg: suicide. On average, there is 1 death a day on the train systems, 1 suicide a week. If your train gets cancelled, blame the corpses.

I like the idea about the Sado Masochist serial killer ad, you've got a good idea there.

But finally, if you don't like the Connex system, then don't use it. Use a car, bus, taxi, bike, run, whatever else there is. It's not like it's an expensive service, and we're certainly not forcing you to use it.

Email: timhtrain - at -

eXTReMe Tracker

Blog Archive