Ad campaign targets drug-affected drivers

A new road safety campaign uses hidden camera footage to reveal the unscripted responses of ordinary New Zealanders finding out they are being driven around by someone high on drugs. The ads, produced by Clemenger, are the start of a multi-channel campaign aimed at reducing the harm caused by drugged drivers.

Youtube VideoThe covert filming was carried out by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) last year, involving a total of 147 people who thought they were being driven to a ‘costume fitting’ for a TV commercial. What they didn’t realise was that their ‘drivers’ were actually actors who were pretending to be driving under the influence of a range of drugs.

Four actors drove the unsuspecting passengers to their ‘costume fittings’. Each of the actors pretended to have recently taken one of four drugs: cannabis, prescription medication, party pills (Ecstasy), and ‘P’. Hidden cameras captured the passengers’ reactions, which range from complacence, to nervous to angry.

NZTA chief executive Geoff Dangerfield says while less is known about the extent of drugged driving in New Zealand compared with drink-driving, evidence suggests that drugs may be a much bigger factor in crashes than officially reported.

A recent study of the blood of deceased drivers in New Zealand show some concerning trends:

• 31 percent had used cannabis with or without alcohol or other drugs.
• 18 percent of drivers used alcohol with another drug.
• 14 percent had used drugs other than alcohol or cannabis.

“We know that driving under the influence of drugs is common and widespread, yet our research shows that only one in ten New Zealanders see it as a problem,” says Dangerfield.

“Current attitudes about the risks of driving on drugs are similar to the views people once had about drink-driving – often complacent, based on unfounded myths or simply ignorant of the facts. Many people believe that they can drive safely on drugs, or that drugs actually make them drive better.”

The campaign launched on Sunday 15 January with a six week television flight. The ads all end with the tagline “Drug driving. Do you think it’s a problem?” and the aim is that this will spur debate and encourage conversation.

This is a multi-platform campaign. Channels include YouTube; web forums; online ads; a Facebook page; and a stationary digital billboard in an Auckland pedestrian area. Through all of these channels the audience will be able to interact, post comments and opinions, vote on poll questions and see live results. The plan is to launch a ‘national poll’, gauging how New Zealanders feel about drug driving in real time. Each week there will be a different question posed, inviting the public to say what they think with a simple YES or NO vote. ‘TVNZ’s U channel, Z Service Stations and street posters will also be used for the polling component.

Each aspect of the campaign will be closely monitored to gauge public reactions. The monitoring is critical for the next stage of the programme. Once the issue is ingrained into the public consciousness, the next stage will be to respond to specific views that emerged from stage one.  The campaign will then adapt to address the drugs, myths and information needs that have emerged.  Clemenger, the agency behind it, has been the driving force behind LTSA’s for well over a decade, since 1999. A fact even more impressive when you consider that, by law, the account must be put out for tender every three years.

“The whole point of this campaign was to start a conversation.  And, although it is early days, judging from the social media comments and blogs over the weekend, It’s certainly done that,” says Clemenger’s managing director Andrew Holt.

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