Morgan Freeman to voice Vancouver's SkyTrain and bus announcements

May 22 2018, 9:33 am

UPDATE: Translink is pausing announcements from Morgan Freeman due to recent reports of inappropriate behaviour.

The deep, soothing, and authoritative voice of Morgan Freeman will be incorporated into the public service announcements of Metro Vancouver’s public transit system over the coming two months.

Visa Canada and TransLink are working together as part of a new educational campaign to inform passengers that they can now use their credit card to access the transit network beginning today.

The campaign, supplementing TransLink’s ‘Avoid Card Clash’ campaign, will run from June 4 to July 29 onboard six buses and the public announcement speakers at select SkyTrain stations.

On these buses, for instance, normal computerized etiquette messages will be replaced with Freeman reminding passengers to be courteous, with etiquette messages such as:

  • “Hello transit riders, remember what your mom used to say: please keep your feet off the furniture.”
  • “Hello bus riders, this is a smoke-free bus, but I’m sure you already knew that… Have a great day.”
  • “Hello bus riders, please move to the back of the bus.”
  • “Hello transit riders, please leave your seat for the elderly and pregnant women.”
  • “Hello transit riders, though I’m sure you have excellent taste in music, remember to keep your headphones at a reasonable volume.”

These messages will end with “Remember that you can now tap your Visa wherever TransLink takes you.”

As for SkyTrain, one of the several announcements that will be played on the platform will be: “Good news, Vancouver! Starting today, you can now tap your Visa to go anywhere TransLink takes you.”

Here’s a sample recording:

And at the end of the BC Lions home games on June 8, June 16, and July 24 at BC Place Stadium, Freeman will be reminding fans that they can safely go home with TransLink and tap their Visa.

The prominent Oscar-winning American actor, of course, is also widely known for his role as a brand ambassador for Visa, having narrated many of the credit card company’s commercials, including the company’s Olympic commercials, for the past eight years.

Morgan Freeman’s Visa Canada commercial during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games:

“This is a great example of marketing innovation because we are using channels that are normally not marketing channels to tell our story in a very relevant, hyper-targeted way,” Nic Lopez, the senior director of marketing for Visa Canada, told Daily Hive in an interview.

“Freeman is the voice of Visa, and we know consumers associate his voice with the Visa brand, so we thought it was very appropriate to have him make announcements and add humour and communicate the exciting message that transit riders now have the expedience and convenience to tap their Visa anywhere TransLink takes them.”

Lopez says his team has been working on this specific experiential marketing project for over a year. Their agency came up with the idea, and they presented it to TransLink, which has “been a fantastic partner to work with and make it happen.”

Other elements of Visa’s unique Vancouver transit campaign, combined with Freeman’s public service announcements, will make this the company’s largest advertising campaign for the Metro Vancouver market since the 2010 Olympics.

The interior and exterior of a number of SkyTrain trains and stations, buses, and SeaBus ferries will be plastered with Visa branding, with visuals of well-known Vancouver landmarks, connecting these spots, and showing how it’s easier to pay for transit with Visa.

There will also be branding at Vancouver International Airport’s domestic terminal and YVR Airport Station.

Visa TransLink fare gates

Visa Card capability on TransLink’s fare gates. (Visa Canada)

Starting today, TransLink enabled contactless Visa and Mastercard and smartphone mobile wallet capability on fare gates and bus card readers.

This is intended as an alternative option to the Compass Card, and provides tourists and other infrequent transit users who do not have a Compass Card with greater ease and flexibility with using public transit, as they can now simply tap and ride.

“Visitors who arrive at Vancouver International Airport won’t have to worry about calculating zones and fares and dealing with the ticket vending machines. Who wants that after a long flight?” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond during a press conference, adding that Metro Vancouver is now the first transit system in Canada and one of the few systems in North America and worldwide to provide such a comprehensive fare payment system.

“And it’s good news for customers who live who might be going to an event at BC Place and Rogers Arena. Instead of lining up for the ticket vending machine, I’ve seen it for myself, you can just tap and go.”

Credit card payment capability could entice those who still rely on cash payment instead of the Compass Card towards this new form of cashless payment, which will reduce lineups at buses and ticket machines. But transit users will still need to continue using the Compass Card for products such as the monthly pass.

Desmond says the implementation of credit card payment capability cost TransLink “nothing” as the Compass Card infrastructure already had built-in technology and programming to allow for such functions.

As well, the public service announcement recordings by Freeman come at no cost to TransLink either.

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