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The best road safety advertising: clever or blunt?

We’ve all seen stunning one-shot ads for social or safety causes before (pun unintended), but do they work? Agencies love them because they’re good for awards shows, but do they actually do anything to assist the causes they espouse? They can be elegant, clever and timely, but do they save any lives?

In the 1989 the Victoria road authorities in Australia began a series of hard-hitting road safety ads which didn’t aim for metaphor or clever point scoring. They consistently dwelt on the aftermath of road crash: the victims, their families and the broken wreckage of lives. There was drama, but it was ugly, inglorious and all too believable. The stats from the Victoria TAC campaign showed that advertising could have a powerful and beneficial effect on the way people thought about their behaviour when driving. It’s nice to do clever work, but it’s sometimes more important to leave the metaphors to one side and look at life in its starkest moments, really eyeball it, without any layers to get through before the message can leave its mark.

Drink driving kills; Lowe GGK Vienna

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