London Tube looks for more consistent style

London Underground is fighting its way from under a mountain of criticism with new advertising that sees it returning to TV for the first time in a decade.

The move marks the start of an effort to bring a more confident and consistent style and tone to promote the Tube, for so long the butt of commuter wrath - heightened recently by sweltering midsummer travelling conditions - and enfeebled by years of under-investment.

The first priority of the initiative is to fill the thousands of seats that remain empty outside the daily rush hour. It will present the Tube as an intrinsic part of London life by showing how it makes the capital accessible to its inhabitants. At present, just 15 per cent of Tube passengers account for 60 per cent of journeys.

Created by M&C Saatchi, the £4 million press and poster initiative beginning this Friday is aimed at putting a friendlier and more human face on London Underground, having it share Londoners' fondness for the place in which they live and work.

The strategy is encapsulated in a slogan inspired by the familiar red heart "love" symbol on stickers people display to show their affection.

The line will run across all executions for the Tube's first fully integrated campaign for which media is being planned and bought by PHD. It aims to bring some synergy to advertising that, until now, has been a series of "one-offs" for specific products, services and information.

The counter-attack opens with the appearance of a pair of 40-second commercials.

Significantly, neither features a Tube train but a series of eccentric-looking people going to extremes to show their love of particular parts of London.

They include an Oval-addicted tea lady who resembles an umpire, her shoulders draped with cricket sweaters, and a dustman who chooses to work in a sharp suit to show how much he likes Saville Row.

The soundtrack song is A Little Love by the 70s Jamaican reggae star Jimmy London.

Both films were written by Duncan Timms, art directed by Will Bates and directed by Mark Denton for Therapy.

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, who this month assumed control of London Underground along with Transport for London, has seen and approved the campaign, which will run initially for five weeks, returning in November.

However, Chris Townsend, TfL's group marketing director, said the advertising had been two years in development and its timing had nothing to do with the Tube's change of control.

"We recognise that there's a big opportunity to increase the number of people using the network, which is under-utilised," he commented. "We want more day trippers and car drivers."

Moray McLennan, the M&C Saatchi joint chief executive, said: "The idea is to turn it into a service brand rather than just a utility. Of course, the Tube will continue to have problems but often these are outside its control and it doesn't mean it shouldn't advertise."