A View From Madrid's Transparent Underground
Torontoist has been acquired by Daily Hive Toronto - Your City. Now. Click here to learn more.




A View From Madrid’s Transparent Underground

Many years ago, the TTC launched the smart “Ride The Rocket” ad campaign, of which only the slogan and typewriter-like font still exist. The fast-paced and effective television commercials featured a quirky spokesperson chattering rapidly into a wide-angle lens about the pros of public transit, and the slick spots made the Commission look modern, exciting, and cool. To a tourist or GTA resident, the subway looked like the backbone of any big city experience.
Of course, those days are long gone and the TTC, while operating the technical aspects of the system relatively well, views its actual customers as an afterthought, and sadly doesn’t prioritize its brand as a potentially dynamic marketing tool. Television campaigns are drastically expensive to produce and run, so it’s not surprising that the perpetually broke Commission can’t be motivated to launch another run of TV spots (although re-airing their 1980s effort on late night television could be a kitschy retro delight).

Then there’s Madrid. The Metro de Madrid has built and retrofitted new subway lines for more than half the cost of what the TTC spends, all executed with a visionary long-term plan. Like the London Underground, there is an explicit focus on maintaining the Metro de Madrid brand, and this award-winning television spot (right) puts a brilliant spin on the subway as a mysterious hidden network connecting the city together.
Directed by animation and special effects expert Gabe Ibañez of Miami-based production company Peliculas Ponder, the ad portrays subterranean transit with an almost zen-like calm, as a place “where you can move without limits.” Though obviously a romanticized notion, the piece is effective and powerful. Another commercial, which coincided with the system’s renovations, is equally playful and features the great tag line “Madrid Metro: Carries You Within.”
Obviously, these kinds of marketing blitzes cost millions, but the execution shows a care and pride displayed, as well as the development of a customer experience—something that Toronto transit riders don’t see any more, in spite of our remarkable sustained willingness to want to cheer for the TTC. Instead, we get cruddy corporate-gift-grade merchandise and poorly designed in-house promotional ads. The TTC needs to rediscover its brand, and to realize they’re neglecting something when giant iPod vinyl ad wraps are what make the system look exciting and hip.
Images via Peliculas Ponder.