Switzerland smashes it with Federer and Noah

What do you get when you mix Roger Federer and Trevor Noah? A perfect ad!

The Swiss Tourist Board knew precisely what they were doing by pairing these two together. Both have roots in Switzerland, as Federer is Swiss and Noah’s dad is of Swiss-German ancestry.

Have a watch of the advert that promotes the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. It popped up as a skippable ad on YouTube for me, but I watched it the whole way through. I can’t even remember the original YouTube video I clicked on.

Let’s go through some of the elements that make this a cracker of an ad:

An unlikely pair

They are an unlikely match; that’s the point: a serious sports star and a world-class comedian.

It creates an instant juxtaposition in your mind before the ad gets going.

It’s unlikely to work, and yet it works beautifully. They work exceptionally well together, and Trevor brings out the light side of Roger.

Interestingly, a white paper from Born Licensing shows us the power of putting these two together.

Whilst their study concluded favouring a fictional character, it outranks all else when you tally up both the ‘sports star’ and ‘celebrity’ categories.

So in effect, they have just created a super ranking by putting the pair together.

They also represent a diverse Switzerland, one of friendship and humour and, above all, welcoming to all. I couldn’t have matched it better if I had tried.

Cultural subtlety

Ha, I love the opening scene where the Swiss producer announces 4-minute warming, and Noah goes,

“Yeah, see you in 5”.

Clearly, it’s a nice moment of cultural nuance as Noah used an Amercianism not to be taken literally.

It was taken one step further on the train as it was made clear that they worst thing that happens in Switzerland is you are late. Things work like clock-work.

These scenes could be easily skipped, but that would be to miss a big trick. According to The Associative Memory theory by Kahneman, our brains look for familiar associations. So we create an association with the ad by introducing lighthearted elements that we all know the Swiss for, like always running on time. Plus, it’s an excellent tip for the uninitiated; don’t be late in Switzerland!


A super storytelling technique they used early on is to build a moment of suspense early on in the story arc. But, unfortunately, they got on the wrong train!

This again created intrigue in the viewer’s minds as to what would happen. What is particularly good is how it carries on like it’s filmed on a amateur camera, since the crew was left behind.

It gives it a more natural feel like they are speaking from personal experience. Viewers can almost picture themselves in those seats with their friends and family, like just two mates on a train.

The interactions with fellow passengers also have some beautiful moments of emotion. From Noah, who was bemused when a kid wanted a picture with Federer over him, to a lady buying them train tickets.

The story also has a nostalgic feel, where Federer recounts each time he sees the views he is inspired by.

Scenes to be inspired by

One of the best memory structure-building techniques, according to System 1, is presenting a sense of place. And what better than a tour of the great Swiss scenery?

It’s a view to envy and a lifetime experience to have. The videography is masterful, with zoomed-in and out scenes to bring this to life.

Grand Train Tour

I love how they choose to focus on the Grand Train Tour. There are so many amazing things to do and see in Switzerland, so why a train journey?

Beyond being iconic and certainly not to miss out on, I think it has to do with memory building.

In a recent article in Marketing Week, Richard Shotton & Will Hanmer-Lloyd, identified a study done by Duncan Godden and Alan Baddeley at the University of Sterling asked divers to learn words underwater, and on the beach. They found that participants were far better able to recall the underwater words when back underwater than on dry land.

In the same way, someone will likely remember your ad if it sits within a familiar context. Most people’s daily commutes involve a train, which is far less luxurious and comfortable than the one our dynamic duo are on.

So by placing the scene on a train, people will watch the ad and think about their daily train journeys. So again, it’s likely the comparison will only lead to a heightened desire to be on the Swiss train over their own.

Calming music

The final piece to the puzzle is the calming instrumental music that can be heard in the background. It’s exactly how it should be on a calming train journey and makes the viewer relax in the advert.


It’s an impressive ad that has been pulled off in world-class style. But remember, it’s essentially a brand ad over a performance-based one. However, the evidence does show that brand ads can have powerful short-term effects. And for me, I’m now trying to convince Mrs that Switzerland will be our next family holiday. Ah the power of advertising!

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