Nova Scotia tries new approach with anti-drunk-driving ads
Published Sunday, December 23, 2012 7:00AM EST
The holiday season is often when anti-drunk-driving groups ramp up their campaigns, to remind holiday-goers of he hazards of getting behind the wheel after a night of holiday revelry.
But after decades of these ads, is anyone really noticing them anymore? What does it take to grab viewers’ attention and to get them to listen to this serious message?
The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation is hoping a little humour and positive reinforcement will do the trick. In some recently-unveiled TV spots, they created ad that show real people – not actors -- being celebrated for choosing to take a cab home at the end of a night, rather than drive.
In its “Girls Night Out” segment, for example, a trio of women hopping into a taxi outside a Halifax bar gets feted with a marching band, fireworks and confetti. The women are then pulled onto a on a stage before a giant LED screen that reads: “A great big thank you for not drinking and driving.”
The NSLC hopes the upbeat approach will be a refreshing change from the more heavy-handed, public service announcements most viewers are used to.
But not everyone agrees.
Tony Chapman, the CEO and counder of advertising agency Capital C, says while the NSLC ad “Girl’s Night Out” ad is different, it’s not likely to be effective.
“I think it’s one of those ads that gets lost in translation. I watched it three times and still don’t know what’s going on,” he told CTV’s Canada AM.
The problem with the ad is that it treats drunk-driving like a game show, and makes it look like the party actually continues, Chapman says. While positive reinforcement can be effective, it doesn’t work well with such a serious issue, he contends.
”I think you have to be a little more in your face.”
The average Canadian is bombarded by about 3,000 advertising messages every single day, Chapman notes, and many people these days are watching television with a second screen open, such as their home computer or cellphone.
To grab their attention, you have to stand out. But when ads try too hard to be clever, they often go astray.
A good example of this, says Chapman, is a Heineken ad that aired a few years ago. It featured a guide dog lapping up a spilled beer, then staggering down a sidewalk while guiding his master. The tagline read: “If you drink and drive, you’re a danger to others too. Think about it.”
While the ad was unique, it was also insulting, says Chapman, and made a joke of what should be a serious issue.
“I can’t believe Heineken would put this on. It’s degrading to their brand, to blind people and it kind of makes drunk-driving funny,” he says. “I think it’s completely off-side and I’m surprised it ever made it to air.”
One of the most powerful anti-drunk-driving campaigns Chapman has ever seen comes from TAC Victoria, the Transport Accident Commission in New Zealand’s Victoria state.
TAC started the ads during the 1989 holiday season, then went on to commission 40 more over the next 20 years. Most of them used what became its trademark tagline: “If you drink, then drive, you're a bloody idiot.”
The campaign was hugely successful, helping to cut New Zealand’s drunk-driving death toll in half.
But it was when all the ads were mashed together in a five-minute montage that message really came through. The montage is set it to “Everybody Hurts” by REM and is so powerful and engrossing, it’s earned more than 15 million YouTube views.
Chapman believes the song is a big reason for the clip’s effectiveness.
“If you pick the right song and it creates a powerful emotion in you, it’ll stick with you,” he says. “…You became part of the song and part of the music and you started internalizing it.”
“You see this tragedy happen and you think that could be my wife or my daughter or my friends. It’s a beautiful campaign and is one of my favourites.”