How we created a platform of authenticity that empowered young people to explore Scotland

First Bus is one of the UK’s biggest bus companies with over 1.6 million daily customers. As their creative partner, we’ve been on quite a journey for many years now, bringing the brand into the vernacular, building relevance, and helping shape how people of all ages travel every day.

Group of U22 in a huddle

The brief

A new free travel scheme for young people under the age of 22 (U22s) presented all bus operators in the region with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engage the next generation of paying bus users. Leveraging this opportunity, First Bus wanted to be foremost in the minds of U22s, so they approached us with a new challenge of speaking authentically to young people in this space.

Insight & strategy

Post-lockdown, young people still felt trapped and robbed of their youth. Many things were missed because of their ‘Zoom’ lessons, social distancing, and inability to meet with their friends. Unsurprisingly, all they wanted was to be young, wild, and free.

This realisation became the basis of our strategy, which was all about connecting the free and easy nature of travel provided by First Bus to the hopes and dreams of U22s.

Main Character from film cast in pink and blue light with wings, holding up their NEC card.

The idea

#Freetoexplore is a concept that is all about giving U22s all-access to experiences that will help them unlock their world. We knew that conventional advertising wasn’t going to cut it—that we needed to speak to them on their terms.

Enter our “nursery grime”.

Putting a fresh spin to a familiar nursery rhyme enabled to weave our “Plan Tap Ride” message naturally and through entertainment. This also allowed us to create an integrated campaign ecosystem, giving First Bus the permission to show up where our target audience consume and create content.

  • Teenager looking at The Skinny website which has been reskinned in the U22 campaign branding.
  • Artwork displayed as a poster on a bus stop.

We wanted to reappraise the simplicity of taking the bus with the simplicity of a nursery rhyme, made for a generation that loves a new take on things. Where better to look for inspiration than in the contemporary music scene in Scotland? I have long been a fan of the grime scene here. The music we decided on was not about forcefeeding a cultural moment; it’s really about celebrating a vibrant and multifaceted music scene that is burgeoning out of Scotland.

Behind the scenes

We have worked with MadeBrave as our Creative Agency for more than four years. The U22 Project has been the most out of our comfort zone we have stepped as a business, but with MadeBrave at the helm we have been completely at ease that this is the right move for us as a business. 

From concept to execution, the process has been a pleasure and we are absolutely delighted with the impact this work has delivered, so far. The creative and media mix are laser focussed to our target audience, and the content speaks directly to who they are, and what they are passionate about. This has very much set a new standard of ‘cool’ for First Bus.

Carolyn Harper, Senior Marketing Manager at First Bus
  • BTS shot of cameraman filming and Director giving direction to cast.
  • BTS shot of Cameraman on bus, shooting Main Character whilst they listen to music in their seat.
  • Director and Creative Lead watching footage on the monitor.
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