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How National Rail hacked ‘Skip Ad’ to reduce trespassing on the tracks by 19%

June 21, 2023 | 4 min read

The campaign won in the Innovation category at The Drum Awards for Marketing EMEA 2023.

Hacking 'Skip ad' functionality to save lives

Hacking 'Skip ad' functionality to save lives / National Rail

National Rail subverted the pre-roll skip ad button to raise awareness of the dangers of trespassing on the tracks.

The Idea

Trespassing on railway tracks is a major public safety issue with many people thinking they can cross a track like they can cross a busy road. National Rail had the objective to reduce trespassing by 19% in priority areas compared to the previous year. The campaign aimed to increase awareness of the dangers of trespassing among adults aged 20-55, in trespass hotspots across the country.

Since one of the biggest excuses given for trespassing is taking a shortcut, the UK rail provider teamed up with Reach Media to subvert the pre-roll ad skip function to reveal the devastating impact of taking a shortcut on a train track.

The Brief

The ’Hacking ’Skip Ad’ functionality to save lives’ campaign by the Storycatchers agency placed interactive pre-rolls with a fake ’Skip Ad’ button on Reach Media’s ad spots. The pre-roll begins with the first video, a straightforward safety message delivered by a presenter. After a few seconds, a fake ’Skip Ad’ button fades in and the user has a choice to make, either watch what they have been told is an important safety message or take the shortcut and skip.

Those that watched the first video to the end received the safety messages and a thank you for not shortcutting safety. Those who skipped were served a graphic VFX of the safety presenter being hit by a train followed by a stark message about the dangers on the track.

National Rail struggled to get any media partners to sign up for the project because of using the decoy skip button so Reach was the primary partner along with the production team at Mediaocean.

The Results

The campaign worked and Network Rail managed to bring down trespassing rates by 19%. Beyond that, campaign recall was around 35%, and 62% of the audience felt the message was relevant to them. Over 2.5m impressions were served between May 16 and June 30 2022, with 45% attempting to shortcut our safety advert.

There was also a 17% uplift in safety awareness and 76% of those polled after the campaign took action after seeing the ad.

This campaign won at The Drum Awards for Marketing EMEA 2023. Find out more about The Drum’s Global Awards program or head to our case studies hub to read more award-winning stories.

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