Govia Thameslink Railway

Raising awareness and adoption of The Key Smartcard


In 2019, Train Operating Company GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) approached The Team to help raise awareness and increase the adoption of its paperless Key Smartcard on their commuter lines (Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern).

GTR were looking to encourage commuters to switch to digital methods so that eventually ticketing would be entirely paperless – a ‘smarter’ approach to ticketing. This channel shift targeted regular commuters; those renewing season tickets on a weekly, monthly or annual basis.


Key Smartcard communications to date had been functionally led, e.g. ‘Faster’ and ‘More Secure’. But to really resonate with the harder-to-switch group of GTR customers, we wanted to make the messaging more personal, to get to the heart of what would compel them to act and make the switch.

We focused on three core proof points for how the Key Smartcard could make a commuter’s life a little simpler. It was more durable compared to an easily torn/shredded/faded paper ticket; it could be renewed online; and commuters would receive automatic Delay Repay notifications.

To achieve standout in crowded stations and online environments, it was essential to strip back our campaign creative with minimal imagery and messaging – to achieve a clear point of difference compared to most communications within the environment.

With durability being the most compelling reason for someone to switch, various familiar – and humorous – scenarios portraying the destruction of paper tickets were deployed across all creative. And using the gentle humour of ‘real-life’ to reinforce our key proof point of durability.

The media mix included press advertisements, social videos, display banners, digital 6-sheet displays and station posters, as well as video displays on the large Transvision screen at Brighton station – all focused on the target geographical areas for the campaign.


Increase in Smartcard sign up’s year-on-year

To encourage our passengers to go paperless we wanted to get to the heart of why they should switch to the Key Smartcard. The campaign uses humour and a clean aesthetic to explore the many ways a ticket can get damaged and highlights the key reason to switch to Smart. The output has included eye-catching out of home and engaging social videos.

Caroline McFarlane, Brand Communications Manager at Govia Thamelink Railway