Will New Zealand’s new road safety campaign hit the sweet spot? It depends on the follow-through

The latest New Zealand road safety campaign has not only attracted much attention locally, but internationally too.

Historically, most advertising campaigns based on fear have proven to be less than ineffective (fear works really well as a motivator in war!) After our first few viewings we tend to switch off to the message. For one, we know exactly what to expect so the surprise and shock factor is lost. Secondly, our natural coping mechanism kicks in and influences us unconsciously to redirect our attention elsewhere.

Take for example the horrific images on cigarette packs and the warnings that they cause cancer, death and other horrible stuff. They don’t seem to have had any meaningful reduction in cigarette smoking, and observing smokers buying tobacco, they don’t seem to even pay the slightest attention to them.

The latest road safety campaign appears to have bridge the tricky divide between seeing and switching off, and seeing and taking conscious notice. By suspending the narrative through clever freeze frame, they invite the viewer into the story, where we’re more likely to relate emotionally to the conversation going on between the two drivers.

Car accidents are usually millisecond events, leaving little time to contemplate and carefully consider what’s going on. By slowing the action, it allows our brain time to assimilate the facts and to digest the emotions attached to the event. It’s no secret that emotion is the most powerful force that marketers can deploy. The tricky part is how to engage the viewer in an emotionally credible fashion.

I have to admit that I switched off mentally from the ad after my second viewing. However, I‘ve noticed that I’m more mindful of my speed and the potential of other drivers to make mistakes, but I expect this heightened awareness will fade in due course.

For lasting impact, the next stage of the campaign needs to reinforce the underlying messages through a range of mediums and engagement points. These could be simple messages that drive the information home, such as a 15 second TV ad, a billboard or a short radio spot. We don’t necessarily need to replay the entire message to internalize it – a simple reminder soon after the event is enough to create more permanence.

The other angle that could be used is to add an experiential component to the campaign. It could be as simple as placing crashed cars at known danger spots. There’s nothing like seeing a wreck close up to send chills down your spine.

In any event, it’s a great campaign and deserving of the attention it’s enjoying.

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2 Comments

  1. I must say your observation from seeing the advert more than once makes perfect sense” the viewer will switch off ” A follow up with simple reminders a brilliant idea. First time seeing the advert, a shock, to follow with simple reminders should make sure that we are reminded that it doesn’t need to happen. Only trouble is if you haven’t seen the shock when do you start the reminders?

    • Good comment Lyn. The premise is that the original ‘shock’ ad would certainly need to be flighted enough to ensure that everyone gets to see it at least once. At this stage it’s still being shown regularly on TV as well as in movie theatres, so reasonable ‘immersion’ is likely. It will be interesting to see how much further the brand owners take the campaign.

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