Recently several news outlets have been reporting about an Australian-based Facebook group that advocates Drink Driving. First published in the Geelong Advertiser, it has now been picked up by the mainstream Australian media.
What interests me from a marketing perspective, is the way drink driving campaigns have continually failed to deter significant numbers of people from continuing this dangerous behaviour. The Facebook group has over 25,000 members, and more than 50,000 Australians are caught driving over the legal limit each year.
Public Service campaigns, like ones promoting anti-Drink Driving, use a specialised from of Marketing. Social Marketing uses commercial marketing techniques to influence long-term behavioural change to improve personal welfare and that of the community. Key differences between traditional company-focused marketing and social marketing include:
Long-term behavioural change opposed to influencing purchase decisions and increasing brand recognition;A recognition of competition in the form of the competing/current behaviour;Determination and definition of what improves personal welfare and societal welfare.
The aim of Social Marketing can be to encourage certain ‘protective behaviours’, such as applying sunscreen or stop practicing ‘harmful behaviours’ like smoking, or in this case, drink driving.
So why have traditional fear-based anti-drink driving campaigns failed?
Many drink driving campaigns in Australia have focused on injury or death, resultant from driving under the influence. While still a significant number, the annual number of drink driving related deaths is less than 1% of all people caught. This means many of the people who don’t directly see the potentially devastating consequences of their actions may not relate to the violent ads.
As Social Marketing campaigns focus on increasing the benefits of and reducing the barriers of performing the desired behaviour, the likelihood of a campaign being successful and creating long-term behavioural change is dependent on a person’s willingness to behave in the particular way.
Without generating significant relevance to the people performing the behaviour, the ads will always fail. One way Ogilvy Brasil managed to become more relevant was to convert the gruesome outcomes of drink driving into an itemised cash amount. They then targeted these people at the ‘decision making time’ – when preparing to leave a club after a night of drinking.
The competition to drink driving is, for a number of different reasons, that ‘impaired driving is acceptable’. Many people don’t experiencing road accidents, and thus don’t see the consequences of their actions first hand. Instead of the recurring negative focus on harm and physical injuries drink driving can cause, advertisers should move towards more realistic ads, with less of the gruesome ‘shock and awe’.
A video produced by Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing for the Texas Department of Transportation also highlights some of the consequences that don’t end up in hospital, but rather take the form of financial costs and impaired social function. This makes it more accessible and relevant to the ‘average Joe’ – which will in turn deliver a greater cut-through to the general population.