Packing a real emotional punch across all the content created, this campaign drew deeply on insight to understand a very difficult audience to inspire – teenage boys. The judges were moved by the clarity of the hard-hitting message and convinced by the evidence presented that the call to action had generated a real response from teenage boys and their parents.

Mark of Excellence:

  • MHP Communications
    RAF100: Inspiring the next generation

The judges awarded this campaign a Mark of Excellence in recognition of the twin achievements: staying true to the heritage of a national treasure and celebrating its history, whilst also thinking creatively about how to engage a younger audience and look to the future. We welcomed the RAF’s focus on engaging young women and BAME audiences and successfully changing their perceptions by engaging on their terms.


  • Brazil and Nextbase
    The National Dash Cam Safety Portal
  • Ogilvy UK, CityPress and Department for International Trade
    Driving an exporting movement through PR
  • Smarts Communicate and Food Standards Agency
    Easy To Ask
  • Smarts Communicate and Scottish Government Marketing
    Stop speeding before speeding stops you
  • Tin Man and The Institution of Engineering and Technology
    The Sound of Engineering
  • Translink
    Glider Launch – Energising Belfast

Winner entry:

Brief and objectives:

Over the past two years, the number of reported trespass incidents on the rail network has significantly increased. Trespassing not only causes frustrating disruption and delays for passengers – it can also lead to serious injury and death for those involved.

Research highlighted a persistent issue with children trespassing. This was being done for various reasons, but at the centre of the issue was a lack of understanding about the level of risk.

There was a clear need to raise awareness of the dangers and consequences of trespassing amongst teenage boys – the highest risk group.

Previous campaigns have been deployed by Network Rail and the wider rail industry, but the messaging has been inconsistent and activity has been intermittent. What was needed to change behaviour was a campaign that would be backed by all stakeholders with a clear and compelling central message that could be delivered repeatedly through different mediums.

The idea, research and planning:

Enter ‘You vs. Train’, a bold and memorable new campaign that resonated with teenage boys and secured the support of the entire rail industry.

How did we get there? Our research revealed that there is recognition of the risk amongst teenage boys, but the majority underestimate it – only 17% consider the railway to be extremely dangerous. Our research uncovered a plethora of alarming stats, such as the fact a third would consider going on the line to retrieve their phone/bag if they dropped it and 23% think it’s relatively safe to walk on the railway line as long as you’re careful.

Teenage boys are a tough audience to influence. Drawing on insights from academics at UCL who helped consult on the campaign, we knew that a purely rational presentation of the hidden risks was likely to fall flat. Due to the way their brains work and the impact of peer pressure, teenagers can struggle to weigh up the rational consequences of their actions in ‘the heat of the moment’. Instead, we needed to go with the grain of an audience who ‘feel before they think’. That meant presenting the rational facts in a highly emotional context. A key principle in driving that emotional resonance was taking the consequences of their behaviour beyond self.

A consistent theme of our research was that teenage boys have feelings of invisibility and immortality but getting them to consider the devastating impact on their loved ones if they were seriously injured or killed as a result of stepping onto the train tracks would be very persuasive.

A secondary but nevertheless very important audience for the campaign were parents of teenage boys. By reaching them with the You vs. Train campaign and ensuring they understand the risks, we could prompt them to have potentially life-saving conversations with their children.

Strategy, tactics, creativity and innovation:

The ‘You vs. Train’ campaign identity was created, with a direct but emphatic tagline of ‘Everyone loses when you step on the track’.

This tested very well with the teenage boys that were consulted. Rather than focus on statistics which can feel anonymous we decided to build the campaign around the story of one family – The Hubbards – whose lives were turned upside down in 2014 when 16-year-old-schoolboy Tom climbed on a stationary train. Despite not touching the overhead electrical cables, the power arced and he was struck by 25,000 volts. He survived but with life-changing injuries and emotional scars.

Based on available budget, audience targeting capabilities, and the scope to story tell, we chose to put social media at the heart of the campaign. But we knew that traditional media and earned attention would play a huge role in allowing us to achieve a level of reach that far outstripped the paid investment.

To convey Tom’s story in the most memorable way, we created a 60-second film. The video begins with a worried-looking mother (depicting Tom’s mum) frantically running. The viewer doesn’t know why or where she is running which builds suspense and intrigue. This story thread is interspersed with footage of a group of lads (depicting Tom and his friends) playing football near a railway line. We see a combination of wide angle footage and video captured on their mobile phones to add realism for the viewer. They climb onto the track in order to retrieve their lost football and then the actor playing Tom climbs on top of an out of use train. The viewer sees Tom struck by the jumping electricity before the two stories threads combine, with Tom’s mum arriving at the scene to see Tom being treated by paramedics. The film concludes with footage of the real Tom and Siobhan, a sobering reminder that the story is based on real events.


We conducted influencer and media outreach to amplify the campaign messaging and give it a sense of gravitas. Targets were identified that would reach and appeal to teenage boys, as well as separate targets to reach parents.

In addition to traditional media and social, the video was also played in cinemas in hotspot locations and deployed using in-app advertising to reach the teenage boy audience.

To accompany the video, a suite of social content was created to act as teasers and reminders about Tom’s story.

To maximise intrigue and engagement, the posts were all mock social media updates from Tom’s mum’s perspective, talking about the accident and Tom’s recovery. To add authenticity and impact, real pictures of Tom in hospital were used.

Measurement and evaluation:

The results were phenomenal!

  • The story appeared on every mainstream broadcast media channel at launch, including BBC Breakfast, Radio 1 Newsbeat and Sky News – generating 364 items of coverage in total.
  • 37 celebrities shared the campaign on their social channels reaching over 6 million people.
  • 14 million were reached with the social content, leading to 2.4 million video views and 12,000 engagements.
  • 30 schools and 16 train operating companies supported the campaign.
  • 99,000 people visited the campaign microsite to find out more.

In terms of outcomes and behaviour change, 92% of children and 95% of adults said they were motivated to take some positive action towards improving rail safety as a result of the campaign. Specifically, 54% of children said they will take more care when using the railway, whilst 61% of adults said they will warn their children about the danger of being electrocuted around the track.

Budget and campaign impact:

The data also suggests a reduction in trespass incidents, in the trespass hotspot locations and beyond, since launch.

The campaign budget was £150,000.