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Annie Mole's, daily web log (blog) & “guide” to the London Underground
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Friday, November 30, 2007

Tube Ads are good

The previous post was on the subject of
ad free Tube carriages, which I actually think are a bad idea. I think it's pretty clear that those ads saying "there would be no ads" weren't endorsed by TfL.

I like looking at ads on the Tube and that's not just because I have a marketing background. I agree with a study by TNS which "discovered" that Tube Car advertising provides the traditionally reserved British public somewhere to direct one's gaze, so as not to risk catching the eye of a fellow passenger. A further study 'The London Commuter' found that a third of commuters think that advertising on the London Underground brightens up their journeys.

Tube Posters get read

And whatever you think about them - they DO work.

Admittedly I don't go off and buy all the products that are on the ads, but I can usually remember the brands that I see on the way into work and coming home. In previous jobs, I've run Tube ad campaigns and we got a fairly high product/brand recall and referral rate from people who said they saw our ad on the Tube.

TfL would lose millions in revenue if we didn't have them and we all know where that lost revenue would end up. So if I get slightly cheaper fares as a result of having ads that I don't have to look at, I'd rather have them than not. Plus I believe most people think the same or certainly aren't prepared to put their money where their good intentions are.

An art-not-ads pledge campaign failed to reach its target of getting enough "anti Tube advertisement" people to raise funds to buy just one ad that could be replaced with art. 350 people needed to cough up a tenner for this pledge to work and they only managed to get 172 people to say they'd do it.

On the way home last night, I saw one of those ads with loads of copy in it. Basically, CBS Outdoor, the company that sell all the ads on the London Underground have launched a competition for advertising people to create a Tube advert that explores an interesting and involving concept in more depth. They used a picture of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs (underground writers - you can see where they're going with this) to promote new underground writers.

Underground Writer

It said "Tube cards can tell a proper story to a captive audience of people travelling on the Underground. They provide a unique and one to one relationship, on average; people spend around 13 minutes reading Tube cards."

If you work for an ad agency or are part of a freelance copywriting & design team, check out the competition and you could win a free Tube campaign & a trip to New York.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 30, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Adless Tube Carriages?

OK, who's the joker on the District Line? This morning I got onto a surprisingly ad-free carriage and just assumed that the ads were being replaced. With a closer look there was a sticker on every other space with a message supposedly from TfL:

Adless Tube Carriages

"As part of TfL's £10 billion investment program London Underground are removing all adverts from trains to improve the ambience of carriages and the overall travelling experience of passengers"
It's a good spoof, but it's a spoof for the following reasons:

1. Although the tone has that bland corporate "announcement" feel, I think it's unlikely that TfL would refer to the ads as "adverts" in this case - I'm sure they would say "advertisements".
2. When would TfL turn down the opportunity to receive so much cash? £61.3 million from advertising revenue in 2006/7 - although what proportion is from Tube carriages I've no idea.
3. When have TfL ever cared about ambience in Tube carriages? We'd have piped musak, mood lighting and free cocktails if they did.
4. TfL putting a greater overall travelling experience over profit beggers belief.
5. I changed onto a Piccadilly line train which was full of the usual ads.

However, perhaps TfL were responsible. With a bit of searching it seemed to be part of the "Buy Nothing Day" - which took place on Saturday apparently. A team of people turned all the ads in District Line carriages the other way around and stuck stickers on them. "The team we saw doing it were very quick, managing to swap around entire carriages of adverts in less than the time it took the train to travel one stop." said a Space Hijacker.

TfL decoration team in action?

Although the Indy Media report suggests it was endorsed by TfL I'm not so sure. Would the TfL decoration team really look like the bunch of students above? Any other thoughts and theories most welcome.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, November 28, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Oystercard payments with your mobile

Photo by Phill PriceOnly a few months after Barclaycard was combined with Oystercard, looks like we'll soon be able to buy our Oystercard with e-cash on a mobile phone.

Transport for London is reported by the Independent to be close to reaching a deal with representatives from Nokia and O2 in order to produce a handset with a built-in Oyster card.

So you'd simply be able to swipe a compatible mobile phone across the Oystercard readers. The cost of the ticket would either be be added to the customer's monthly phone bill or deducted from a top-up account linked to the phone, similar to pay-as-you-go mobile phone services. The Register said it's "likely centre around the Nokia 6131-NFC handset, as that's the only model with the technology currently built in.

Oyster is based on Phillips' MiFare technology, otherwise known as ISO14443 Type A, which these days is a subset of NFC. So the Nokia handsets should already be compatible with the Oyster readers on the ticket gates

If you're a Barclaycard customer you might have already been selected to trial this. As early next year several hundred Barclaycard customers will receive the Nokia handsets that will work in around 1,000 London shops - they need only to be waved at RFID reader terminals to carry out the transaction. Small payments go through instantly, while anything over ten quid requires a PIN.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, November 28, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, November 26, 2007

Miss Mind The Gap Sacked

Just when my earlier post of today shows that London Underground staff have a sense of humour, Transport for London go and ruin it all by
sacking Emma Clarke. Last week, I blogged that Emma who is the voice of the majority of the pre-recorded announcements on the Tube had produced a series of spoof announcements. Well TfL didn't take too kindly to the announcements, calling them "silly" and cutting all future contracts with her.

Emma Clarke - Miss Mind The Gap

Not sure how much irony was in the following TfL announcement from a spokesperson: "Some of the spoof announcements are very funny. But Emma is a bit silly to go around slagging off her client's services. London Underground is sorry to have to announce that further contracts for Miss Clarke are experiencing severe delays."

Most of the announcements on Emma's site actually poke fun at commuters rather than her "client's services". (UPDATE: For a while Emma's site was overloaded with people trying to listen to the mp3's. But it's up and running again)

If "crammed in a sweaty carriage" is considered a "slagging off" rather than a statement of fact, TfL ought to spend a bit less time being kill-joys and a bit more time sorting out the mess that Metronet have left us in and do something to improve the sweatiness and the err... cramminess.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, November 26, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tube Photo of the Week

Just to show that Thanksgiving even has "some" influence on the Tube:

Photo by STML

Taken by STML at Warwick Avenue station. Thanks to Rob for the heads up.

By the way, does anyone know if the guys at Oval station are still doing their "Thought of the day" on the white boards there?

Thoughts of the day at Oval

Or have they run out of thoughts?

; Posted by annie mole Monday, November 26, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

London Transport Museum Re-opens

After a two year closure and investment of £22.4 million, the
London Transport Museum re-opens on the 22nd November. As it's not a million miles away from where I work, I'm sure I'll be dropping in to see what's what. We're promised state-of-the-art recreations, interactives and stunning exhibits. There's an extra floor, more space on the ground floor and a newly constructed basement theatre.

Photo by Mike - see his Trusted Places Review

I'm most interested in the promise of transport related cocktails on the Upper Deck café bar. You can lounge around on Northern Line upholstered seats and sip the tantalisingly named The Anorak & Metropolitan Mixture drinks. One can only guess what delights they might hold. I'd imagine The Anorak is made out of cold tea. The Metropolitan Mixture was initially a medicine devised by a pharmacist in Gower Street in 1879 "to ease the plight of persons emerging in distress from the nearby station". Victorian Londoners clearly needed to recover from the early steaming and smoking underground tunnels. So perhaps this cocktail will have a medicinal "pick-me-up" kick to it.

The museum sounds like it's getting very 21st century and is already embracing of Web 2.0 marketing tactics. Apparently they used Facebook to get video clips of commuters' journeys from five ‘global cities’ – New York, Paris, Delhi, Shanghai and Tokyo. Not quite sure why London wasn't included - perhaps no one wanted to watch exhibits of crowded carriages with everyone looking miserable.

What on earth is this - From the London Transport Museum

The museum also has its own Flickr set and was kind enough to add me as a friend a few weeks ago.

In the "Mystery Objects set" I found the rather strange device above, which they are asking people to guess what it might be. The only clue is that it's from 1990 and I only hope it's not as fetishy as it looks.

Feel free to make a guess in the comments below. Plus if you visit the museum it would be interesting to hear your thoughts. It's always been swarming with kids whenever I've gone in the past and if I went as an adult on my own, I used to feel a bit uncomfortable, but with a few Anorak cocktails inside me, I'd probably be beyond caring.

Update 22nd November - Mike from Trusted Places has written post based on his trip on the morning it opened with some good shots on Flickr.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, November 21, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, November 19, 2007

Goodbye to the promise of cooler Tubes

We're beginning to learn the practical effects of Metronet's collapse. The much trumpeted 150 million quid "cooling" system is now on hold (ie scrapped). The fact that this announcement was made in the middle of November on a wet and cold day, didn't stop it making front page news in The London Paper.

Tube Cooling Plan Axed

A new mechanical chiller was installed at Oxford Circus Station to cool the main ticket hall at the end of May this year. Similar projects at Euston & Waterloo station will now be shelved.

But it's not just cooler Tubes that are in for the chop. Plans to install lifts where there are none at present will also be delayed - with existing lifts and escalators being repaired rather than replaced. Many new stairways, entrances and exits will also be put on hold. There will also be cutbacks on plans to improve accessibility for disabled passengers.

Transport for London will take over maintenance of the lines early in 2008 after Metronet went into administration in July. Tim O'Toole, London Undergound's MD, said rather obviously: "It is not possible to have a collapse on the scale of Metronet without it having major implications."

However, TfL have to prioritise improvements to the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines - leaving other projects (like cooling the system & improving accessibility) struggling for money. I was shocked to hear that Metronet's collapse is apparently still costing us £13m a week.

Beat the heatBrian Cooke, from the passenger group London TravelWatch reckons the Government should step in and supply the extra funds.

He said: "We still believe that it was central Government which caused the mess of the public-private partnership. They got us into the mess so they should get us out of it. It should pay for any additional costs which LU has to suffer."

As passenger numbers and global warming increase it is more important than ever that measures are taken to keep the Tube cool - though we recognise this is not an easy project

So remember to follow the wise advice from TfL of carrying a bottle of water and getting off the Tube earlier if you feel a bit too hot.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, November 19, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, November 16, 2007

Miss Mind The Gap Outtakes

Ever wondered what the in-carriage Tube announcements would sound like if the voice-over woman was having a bad day? Or decided to say what was really on her mind? Wonder no more as you enter the mind of Emma Clarke also nicknamed "Sonia" (her voice gets on yer nerves) the woman behind the pre-recorded announcements on almost all of the London Underground lines (she doesn't do the Jubilee Line, the Northern Line and Docklands Light Railway).

She says "You've got the microphone. It's a Monday morning. There are hundreds of bored commuters listening. The temptation is simply too much....."

The following are my favourites:

Emergency Warning

Passengers should note...

Would the gentleman...

With Residents of London.... really showing signs of a woman about to jack in the whole job.

There's lots more on Emma's site and many thanks to Nik Fox for alerting me to them in the first place.

UPDATE - Emma's now been sacked - as TfL didn't find the announcements funny - see this post for more.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 16, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Children in Need Tube Challenge

Amersham Station by RedversIn a few hours around 20 people will be leaving Amersham when the Tube system opens to take part in Tube Challenge for Children in Need.

James, who's a regular reader of this blog said:

"We're going all out. The whole entire map. Yes, we intend to visit every single Tube station on the map, from zone 1 to zone D, from Acton Central to Willesden Green, all 274 open Tube stations in one single day.

It's going to be hard. We're starting at just after 5, when the first train departs from deepest darkest Middlesex towards Central London. We'll see the sun rise, and then set again, in the course of our challenge (assuming we're not underground that is). We'll probably finish around 20 hours after we started, having run the equivalent of 10km each, travelled many miles across London and used transport as diverse as Tubes, buses, trains, trams and light railways.

We want to raise as much money as possible, and get press coverage for the whole Tube challenge group as well.

Now, you may be asking yourselves "well, how can I help? I'm not running all that, I'm not that insane, but I want to contribute." Well, the obvious answer is to sponsor us at http://www.justgiving.com/cintubechallenge07 - it's what most people will be doing, and certainly the easiest way to do it. You can sponsor us on completion, or for the number of commuters we knock out of the way, or the number of trains we just miss the connection for

To see how they get on, check out their blog which James will be updating by text along the way.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, November 15, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Three of a kind game

You've probably seen the set of ads in Tube carriages from the online casino company 888.com. One of my favourites and that I've been meaning to snap for a while is about trying to predict the next "three of a kind" who sit opposite you. "Three of a kind" in this case being men or women.

Three of a Kind - 888.com Tube Ad

Weird thing is that I rarely seem to sit opposite three men or three women in a row. Certainly not on the way into work. Coming home, I'm more likely to get the 'lads' or 'girls' night out there's something about a morning commute which means sexes are "shuffled" a bit more. Particularly when random strangers are concerned.

But perhaps it's just me. It's difficult to "prove" my theory, but I had a look at the Tube Eye Pool on flickr - which is the closest thing to vaguely regular photographic view of commuters I could think of. Of the last twenty pictures which had three or more people sitting in a row (with no spaces) only seven were "three of a kind". There were only two sets of three women amongst them, so even with my rubbish maths, that's fairly low odds of getting "three of a kind" made up of women.

Northern Line daze by slip slowly - a rare three chicks in a row

Try it on the way into work and, if you're lucky enough to get a seat, - see if you a) actually get to sit opposite a three in a row, and b) can correctly predict the sex of the next three in a row you get. If there are a lot three women in a row, my random control group above is completely bogus.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, November 13, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, November 09, 2007

TfL did consider radical redesign of Tube Map

There's been a lot of
discussion about the new Tube map that's coming out this Sunday, 11th November. I've just received heads up from the guys at iPM at BBC Radio 4 that they will be talking to the Curator of the London Transport Museum and also to a person from Transport for London about the new map.

Apparently TfL will tell that they did consider a radical redesign - but then dismissed the idea as it was a step too far for now. They're continually being sent ideas for new designs but apparently none fit the bill. Interestingly they see the map as being quite "socialist" - ie equal measure is being given to each line. They have an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" approach. This is all very well, but considering there will definitely be more changes in 2012, have we really now got to the stage where something simpler should be produced?

Max Roberts alternative "curvy Tube map" is certainly pleasing on the eye. Would the extra lines and stations work on this?

Check out the piece on Radio 4 on Saturday 10th November at 5.30pm. Sounds like it will be a good one. You'll also be able to download the podcast from BBC iPM if you miss it. There will also be much more on the blog in terms of longer interviews, plus elements that didn't make the final "on-air" item, so check out their blog on Saturday evening. As a preview there's an audio piece on this post with TfL's Group Design Manager Innes Ferguson who was asked in the past if other designs were considered.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 09, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Is Lucas at Ealing Common?

A number of music videos are shot on the Tube, but sometimes they're only shot to appear that way and you'll find a lot of artistic licence is used as the bands move around.

Realaustinman sent me a link to Lucas With the Lid Off which at around 2 minutes into the video looks as though the band are getting on the Tube at Ealing Common

Lucas With the Lid Off

But are they really?

In the scenes after the one above inside the carriage, it's pretty hard to tell which line they're on.

Is it the District or the Piccadilly Line? Or is it not on the Tube system at all?

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, November 06, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sneak Preview of new Tube Map

There's a new Tube map out on the 11th November and a number of people have mentioned to me that there's already a sneak preview of it
doing the rounds. It was actually accidentally put up on TfL's site on the 29th October for a couple of hours and then taken down.

Tube Map 2007 - 2008

A new blog from the BBC commented on complexity of the system asking whether it's now too complex to map properly.

It's amazing how crowded the new map now looks. Admittedly there are a number of new stations like the re-opening of Wood Lane and the new Terminal 5 Station at Heathrow. But why do they continue to show Shoreditch even with a line through it? Any other thoughts and comments welcome.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 02, 2007 Permalink COMMENT HERE