Last week most of Central London had copies of the Evening Standard with a special feature cover from Great Western Railway. It was no doubt aimed at day trippers who might wish to take advantage of GWR’s new IETs (their green Azumas if you like!) Especially those faster services that are being offered with the company’s current timetable.
GWR has done lots of adverts revolving around the Famous Five, both day trips and holiday jaunts with many variations for each of the pictures that were produced with wide coverage in newspapers, on posters at many rail stations, and there are still lots of these GWR adverts to be seen in both social and news digital media.
The Famous Five adverts were first launched in September 2017 in collaboration with the Enid Blyton estate and Hodder Stoughton Ltd thus this is the campaign’s third year and its clearly seen as a very successful one. No doubt the appeal of it is, as well as children, those adults who too had the opportunity to read Enid Blyton’s books when they were a child.
The front and rear pages of the GWR special advertising feature for the Evening Standard on 13 February 2020. Note the word search! Click image for larger version.
Though GWR have gone for large scale advertising based around the Famous Five theme before and employed full page advertising it seems this is the first time it has employed a four page special cover wrap for the newspapers.
This particular campaign, starting from the second week of February 2020, is also the first to extol the new faster train times that came into use at the timetable change late last year.
The Cardiff-London record breaking run of 23rd October 2019.
These faster train times came hot on the heels of some considerable record runs with GWR IET’s from Cardiff (93min) Bristol (72min), and Swindon (44min) to London that were made during 2019.
GWR’s adverts (and social media pages) recently featured a new image which said ‘Five get there faster.’ Following on from that came adverts which declared ‘Five get to Bristol faster’ – and then a whole tranche of brand new adverts were put up on the Paddington station approach road.
They all read as Five get to Plymouth faster, Five get to Bristol Faster and Five get to London faster (plus the two end-on posters which simply say ‘Five get there faster.’)
This latest in the Evening Standard no doubt takes things to a different level and its clear the company is determined to exploit the railway’s newly enhanced Intercity Express Train services – or as is described in the timetables, its new SuperFast services.
Clearly GWR are making much of the fact one can get to Bristol in just over an hour. Just think of the extra crime busting that can be done! If that doesn’t whet one’s appetite, there’s the SS Great Britain or the Clifton suspension bridge.
The fact being extolled here is one can get to Bristol in as little as 68 minutes. It happens to be an interesting claim because, on the face of it, this is the only timetabled run which beats the speed record established last year by GWR. However there’s a catch…
This 68 minute journey time is actually for the journey to Bristol Parkway on the outskirts of the city! Somehow I think the Famous Five would really prefer to be in the centre of the city. This means the fastest journey from London to Bristol Temple Meads is actually 79 minutes (against the record time of 72 minutes.)
Those timings are also dependent on whether a train is going via the Badminton route or via Chippenham and Bath. Yes one could go one way and back the other and take in the city of Bath too.
The latest GWR timetable – including SuperFast services. A check of the timetable racks at Paddington reveals this is the only one that carries the SF symbol.
In terms of the advertising itself, the Five get to Bristol briskly is clearly a further adaptation of the recently introduced Five get to Bristol faster. Both campaigns uses a new image of Bristol which depicts an IET at a platform alongside the River Avon, side by side with Brunel’s SS Great Britain plus the Clifton Suspension bridge in the background.
Ironically in some respects this new picture is wishful thinking because, yes, Bristol did have a fantastic railway beside the River Avon. Alas this was ditched in favour of a new guided bus route thus depriving the city of an excellent tourist attraction. Nowadays the unfortunate steam train rides trundle a short bit along the quay and as observers have said, its just not the same.
So far we’ve seen the outer pages of this particular GWR campaign. Shown below are the inner pages. One will notice there is a reference to the Night Riveria Sleeper train. Its rather like the Pullman Dining Service advert seen on the front pages.
The inner pages of the GWR Evening Standard advert. Click image for larger version.
As can be seen the main section of the GWR advertising featured Bristol. The next door city, Bath, comes a close second. Its not the first time the Famous Five (in this format) have been featured in the Roman Baths. The earlier 2018 GWR video Five go on a Great Western Adventure depicts the Roman city nicely as the five hunt a master jewel thief. For that reason the video is also known as Five and the Missing Jewels.
Cardiff gets an extra special mention now that train times are considerably enhanced. Its 102 minutes from London (against the 93 minutes record made last year.) Its not the first time Cardiff has had a mention in the GWR campaign, in fact the Welsh capital has been quite a regular feature.
Five make Cardiff in cracking time/Five race to Cheltenham.
This I think is the first time Cheltenham has been shown properly in the campaign, and the racecourse is the feature. Previously there have been adverts with the Famous Five looking at a billboard depicting special fares to the town such as that shown below. (Just let you know that was a special low fare fare available to 26th January 2020!)
London-Cheltenham special fares featuring the Famous Five. Source: Twitter
Penzance has been featured in the GWR advertising almost ever since the start. Who could forget those earlier images of the station featuring an extremely rationalised layout? I think this earlier, simplistic, portrayal of England’s westernmost railway station was soon realised to be a mistake. It was corrected later thankfully!
Five power down to Plymouth.
In terms of the other major GWR destinations, I think this is the first time Plymouth has been brought in properly with a feature image depicting the famous lighthouse on Plymouth Hoe. There have however been campaigns similar to the earlier Cheltenham ones featuring the Famous Five looking at fares.
Paddington station at the weekend showing GWR’s new ‘faster’ poster line up. Briskly put up no doubt!
What of the other cities/towns on the GWR network? Oxford has featured several time as London has too. Exeter cathedral has made an appearance several times. Bath (blended with Oxford) and Dawlish too though not specifically by name, as have Gatehampton/Moulsford bridges and a section of the Cornish main line (all done with a bit of artistic licence.)
One wonders where the illustrators get their ideas from. It seems they perhaps look at photographs of various railway locations and then decide which elements to use. I say that because its not just GWR locations. In early artistic renderings they were using the iconic yellow train indicators belonging to the Southern and South Eastern lines!
Early rendering of a Famous Five GWR scene using yellow Southern indicators! Source: You Tube
Clearly the artistic licence counts because its the impact of the images that is made. I mean, they are all fantastic! Looking at that for London (below) well we know it isn’t like that! Its more like Dubai, and it seems the illustrators are at times trying to bring traditional and modern elements together. Its not the first time this has been done, an earlier campaign for London featured the railway viaducts in the centre of the city of Bath – with Canary Wharf as a backdrop – and it worked well!
London looks more like Dubai! Big Ben’s (aka Elizabeth Tower) and Tower Bridge’s height is just astounding! This is from the 2018 GWR video.
GWR Famous Five unused rendering (the balloons were used in the adverts featuring Bristol and the Clifton suspension bridge.) Original source: Painting Practice – but page has been deleted. Incomplete version available on Internet Archive.
What of the other places? Well quite a few actually don’t exist because they’re based on interpretation/creativity (plus the merging of far more than just one location) and a desire to make the adverts outstanding – which they are. In fact I think its a great campaign. Also its rare to see one that has an everlasting endurance. In that respect I look forward to seeing further examples of GWR’s excellent campaign!
Update February 2023:
Originally a substantial update had been written to cover the GWR’s publicity in depth but that has fallen by the wayside for the moment. Instead of that – here is a brief update instead. The GWR Famous Five publicity continues to make its presence in many places in the media, travel publications, railway posters, leaflets, rail staff journals etc. There’s even several pages dedicated to the publicity in GWR’s most recent Annual Report (to April 2022.) Clearly GWR is finding so many new ideas in terms of their Famous Five campaign. Its very successful and it would be quite difficult in fact to find a replacement campaign which has conveyed so much admiration and substantial custom.
Its also interesting how the Famous Five publicity is used and how some aspects of it has the Famous Five featured whist others don’t have that. Its been a common theme throughout the campaign since its introduction in 2017. Particularly of interest is how the new Okehampton line services have fared with regards to the Five. The Okehampton line at its opening was originally launched with a specially commissioned artwork that was widely liked, however it wasn’t long before GWR brought the Famous Five in to adorn their new station posters and onboard train publicity as well as from later in 2021 new Okehampton line timetables.
The new Dartmoor Line services have certainly seen great variation in the artwork that is being used. These images can be found for example on GWR and Dartmoor Line Facebook timelines. The Five were used in the line’s publicity (in terms of leaflets, timetables and posters) after it had been officially reopened as the left hand image shows. The new publicity for 2022 (right) however shows the same artwork without the Five who have since moved onto other versions such as that shown below.
Those newer posters are for the purpose of publicising Dartmoor (and other similar locations served by GWR) as a National Park. What is of interest is the trains themselves do change too! As shown above originally the artwork featured a GWR turbo – and that even though other train types such as the 158s too have reached Okehampton – however the artwork currently features GWR IET’s which is their Class 800 range of trains.
As this pic shows the Five’s Okehampton artwork has since been used in poster campaigns aboard trains and at GWR stations publicising National Parks instead. Source: Twitter.