Blazed as: NZTA and Taika Waititi get colloquial to target Maori drug-drivers—UPDATED

A few weeks back NZTA and Clemenger BBDO launched the second phase of its drug driving campaign, ‘Shopkeepers‘, which used humour to create awareness around the fact that having a toke before getting behind the wheel wasn’t safe, despite beliefs to the contrary. And, just as it did with Legend, it’s followed that up with an ad/short film aimed at the Maori community that shows how children view the behaviour of their blazed parents. 

As the blurb says: “Three Maori boys find themselves in a situation familiar to most kids growing up in New Zealand: sitting outside in the car, waiting for one of their dads to come out and drive one of them home. The only thing is, the dad has been blazing, and the kids know it. We watch them change from comical to contemplative, as they examine their own awareness of their dads’ behaviour in the raucous, imaginative way only young boys can.” 

The campaign launched on Maori Television and was created by award-winning director Taika Waititi, who also found success with his short film based on a similar theme, Two Cars, One Night. 

According to The Economist, New Zealand loves the wacky backy, with 14.6 percent of the population 15-64 having smoked it in the past year, compared to the global average of 3.9 percent. And according to Ministry of Health stats from 2007/2008, the prevalence of cannabis use was significantly higher among Maori adults than among non-Maori adults (32.6 percent for males and 23.9 percent for females). 

When we spoke with Linda Major, Clemenger BBDO’s director of social marketing about ‘Shopkeepers’, she said this stage of the campaign focused specifically on those who used cannabis, and particularly those in their thirties and forties, a group that often thinks they’re okay to drive after smoking and doesn’t consider their behaviour to be a road safety issue. Some of these so-called ‘sensible stoners’ think the drug has little effect on their driving and many even believe that the drug makes them a safer driver as they feel more focused and drive slower. That doesn’t gel with the crash statistics, however, so the campaign is based on a key insight from our target audience that when a person uses cannabis, they do things slower than usual

The first ad has had close to 150,000 views on YouTube. 


Here’s some background to this phase of the campaign

Context for this work  

Conversations generated by stage one of our Drug Driving campaign showed us that the main drug people admit to using and then driving under the influence of is cannabis. Results from our national poll showed that 56% of respondents thought drug driving was a problem and 32% said it was safe to smoke cannabis and then drive.

Consequently this next stage of the drug impaired driving campaign will focus specifically on those who use cannabis.

Recent research from the Drug Foundation found that Maori men and women were over 50 percent more likely to have used cannabis in the previous year than men and women in the general population. So while this campaign is targeting a broad New Zealand audience, from 13th September it will also specifically be targeting Maori through a separate TV ad and programme integration on Maori TV.

A challenging issue

In comparison to drink-driving, less is known about the extent of drugged-driving in New Zealand and the impact it has on road safety. A lack of empirical New Zealand research exists. However, some evidence suggests that drugs may be a bigger factor in crashes than officially reported.

Results of a study (carried out by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd over 2004-2009) of the blood of deceased drivers show 30 percent of drivers had used cannabis with or without alcohol or other drugs. Three-quarters of cannabis drivers who died caused the crash that killed them, and when alcohol and cannabis were mixed together nine out of ten dead drivers were responsible for the crash that killed them.

Drugged-driving is a complex issue. Unlike drink-driving, safe limits cannot be established and it is difficult to enforce. Because cannabis is also an illegal drug, it is unregulated. All of these issues make it difficult to target people who use cannabis and drive.

The campaign

The new campaign targets people, including Maori, who believe they’re okay to drive after using cannabis. Some people who use cannabis think the drug has little effect on their driving. They even believe that the drug makes them a safer driver as they feel more focused and drive slower when under the influence. They have never considered their behaviour to be a road safety issue.

The campaign is based on a key insight from our target audience that when a person uses cannabis, they do things slower than usual. We want them to apply this to a driving scenario and acknowledge that their reaction time is slower and they have less ability to react quickly should the unexpected occur.

Ultimately we want them to make the link and start to question their own behaviour behind the wheel.

Reaching Maori

Qualitative research from our first phase showed that, in large due to the illegal nature of cannabis, the way the drug is talked about and integrated into the lives of smokers varies markedly between different groups. As a consequence, to achieve cut-through, our messages need to use scenarios and language that fit a specific audience.  We have worked closely with Maori TV and renowned director, Taika Waititi, to develop a message that will resonate with Maori.

At this stage of the campaign, our goal is to encourage people to consider whether they really are as safe as they think they are when they use cannabis and drive.    

Our creative approach uses kids as ‘experts’ in observing whanau who drive under the influence of cannabis. 

The idea came from an insight shared by Maori dads: they don’t like smoking weed around their children. And yet they have no problem driving with their kids in the car after a session.

If it is bad to smoke weed in front of their kids, why is it ok to drive while affected by the drug? Perhaps our children see more about how it affects our behaviours and abilities than we do, as we portray in the ad.

Through the eyes of kids, we want people to reflect on what they’re like when they’re stoned. 

Drug driving: is it really that safe?



Advertising Manager: Rachel Prince

Principal Scientist Strategic Directions: Paul Graham 

Senior Advertising Advisor: Victoria Slade

Clemenger BBDO

Executive Creative Director: Phillip ‘Duster’ Andrew

Creative Director: Brigid Alkema

Creative Team: Mark Dalton & Mike Gwyther

Director of Social Marketing: Linda Major

Planner: Thomas Scovell

Account Manager: Bethany Omeri

Agency Producer: Marty Gray


Media Business Director: Annabelle Wilkinson

Media Account Director: Emily Goulden


Maori TV

Sales Executive: Toni Urlich


Curious Films

Executive Producer: Matt Noonan

Director: Taika Waititi



Grade: Pete Richie


Liquid Studios

Music Composition: Peter van der Fluit

Audio Post: Craig Matuschka

Producer: Tamara O’Neill

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