Reminding people of the danger you can't see


The idea: Always on, so always stay off

Always On So Always Stay off badge

The Midland Main Line is being electrified as part of a £2billion upgrade. The electricity running through the lines is 100 times more powerful than the voltage used in houses, and ten times more than the electric chair.

This level of power has many benefits and clears the way for quicker, quieter and greener trains to run on the line.

But there will also be clear and present dangers too.

Our challenge was to successfully shift the perception of the danger from the train to the track, raise awareness of the upgrade and educate line-side neighbours on the dangers and benefits of the electrification programme.

Our insight was simple:
Electricity is a paradox.

On one hand it is a benign, benevolent force that powers our world and helps us live our lives. On the other hand, if misused, it has the power to cause severe harm.

So we personifying electricity as a dualistic character, communicating both the positives and negatives of electrification – delivering the key points in an intriguing and attention-grabbing way.

We applied the voice of this character to our entire campaign including out of home media, print, digital, cinema and radio – personified by a Hollywood actor known for playing both villains and heroes.

Cinema and radio – best listened to with headphones

23red Always On So Always Stay Off Posters
23red Always On So Always Stay Off Posters
23red Always On So Always Stay Off Posters

But there was one crucial audience that don't pay attention to traditional campaigns – young people

We knew that they think of death and its effect on friends and family as an abstract concept. They don’t engage with public safety messages and wouldn’t listen to a large organisation like Network Rail. But they do spend up to 21 hours a week online, most frequently on YouTube. 

So we partnered with Fully Focused, a youth-led social enterprise production company, and approached a number of schools near danger hotspots. Through facilitated workshops with over 250 secondary school children, they helped to co-create a believable storyline that addressed the issue.


Students during one of the workshops.
Image courtesy of Network Rail.

"Our workshop was fantastic! The workshop leaders engaged some of our most challenging students and inspired them to participate in a way that even our most experienced teaching staff struggle with. The students didn’t want the workshop to end and felt a real sense of pride that their ideas might contribute to a much bigger project and ultimately help get the message of rail safety out to other kids their age."

Head Teacher Quote

The result was ‘18’, a 33-minute short film, scripted by Shazia Rashid, directed by Teddy Nygh and filmed in and around the Midlands by a young crew.

18 stars acclaimed actors including Harry Kirton (from Peaky Blinders), Aimee Kelly (BAFTA nominated BBC Wolfblood star), Shaquille Ali-Yebuah (from Netflix’s iBOY) and Steve Oram (from TV series The End of the F***ing World) and dramatises what happens to a group of friends when one of them is electrocuted whilst trespassing on the railway.

18' is live on YouTube and had been viewed well over 2 million times within the first six weeks. Most recent views total almost 4 million. It's had almost 60,000 likes and over 9,000 comments.

Most importantly, almost 60% of all views are by our core audience of 13-24 year olds.



18 – Our ‘Always On’ short film won both the Grand Prix and the Best Public Sector/Government Content Marketing Strategy at the Drum Content Awards 2018. It also won Best Community Engagement at the Drum Social Purpose Awards and a Silver DMA Award.