8.8 million tickets, 10,500 athletes, 7,500 team officials, 302 events and 1 ageing transport system – what could possibly go wrong?
Quite a lot, it would seem, if Transport for London’s communications were to be believed. In the months leading up to the Olympics the ‘Get Ahead of the Games’ (GAOTG) strapline became a byword for doom and gloom.
Aside from wrestling with one of the most unwieldy acronyms in recent history, this overwhelmingly negative core message would usually result in a campaign being widely derided. There were few positives to be taken, and news outlets around the world began to lick their lips in anticipation of a Great British transport meltdown.
Fearful of the impending chaos, businesses powered up their home working platforms and some distinctly unsteady cyclists started to eye up the Lycra. Then, as London held its collective breath, nothing happened. Admittedly we are only in the first week of the Games, but it seems that London’s transport infrastructure is actually functioning more efficiently than ever before.
TV crews were left frustrated by a free-flowing London Bridge on the first day of the equestrian events, ‘games lanes’ have been taken out of use and would-be home workers have been denied their potential moment in the sun. So far it seems the only person inconvenienced by transport issues appears to be the Mayor himself, who managed to get stuck on a zip-wire in Victoria Park.
Media conspiracy theorists suggest that the cross-platform GAOTG communications were specifically designed to drive long suffering locals and non-tourists out of London. While this assumption may be cynical at best, the campaign must surely go down at this early stage as a triumph of expectation management.
From the start, the GAOTG campaign focused on being the best source of information for Londoners looking to plan their travel. By tapping into the relentless demand for up-to-date information and combining social, print and direct mail communications, their message is the one that is heard above all others.
Close work with the BBC and other London-focused news outlets has ensured broadly positive coverage of the transport system’s performance so far. This traditional media work has been supplemented by a frequently updated and well followed Twitter feed, which has proved to be a revelation in the social sphere with over 62,000 followers at time of writing. The campaign’s little-noticed absence from Facebook is, perhaps, a story for another day.
No doubt the transport system will now suffer a meltdown of epic proportions. Having being prepared for the worst, I am now grimly determined to complete the 4.6 mile, 1 hour 33 minute walk home at least once. If I don’t, what will there be to moan about?