The people of exurban Northern Virginia are losers. Or at least a trio of ads released last July would have had you think so. In one, a glum young office worker feeds paper into a copy machine. In another, a guy who looks like a quarter-life crisis Napoleon Dynamite sits with a cat on his lap, dejected. A portrait of him and the cat sits nearby.
“Look alive, Andersons,” the narrator tells one family of shut-ins. “Good times are ahead.”
What’s changed? It’s not a Zoloft prescription. Rather, the three ads came as part of the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority’s final push to promote the Silver Line. In Metro’s telling, the new route to D.C. for people as far away as Reston meant good things: a new job, outings with your family, a girlfriend who isn’t a cat.
The odd, 15-second spots came at a hefty price—$102,182.10, according to documents obtained through Metro’s version of the Freedom of Information Act. They were all part of a regional attempt to promote the new line, one that that included bags, tiny flashlights, and 1,000 lanyards. Metro’s campaign included $22,548.61 for focus groups to study how to pitch the Silver Line, and $53,196.96 for Silver Line street teams.
But Metro’s biggest—and priciest—push came in the form of dozens of dancers boogieing to the Wiehle-Reston East location. Backed up by a song from Australian power poppers Architecture in Helsinki, a conga line of joyful commuters make their way to the station.The message: Metro’s so great, people in Reston will start spontaneously dancing. That ad ran the cash-strapped system a hefty $483,320.42, according to Metro records.
Whatever you think of the ads, they worked—or something. Three months after the Silver Line launch, the new stations were approaching their end-of-year ridership goals. No word yet on how much of that can be attributed to the dancers.