Ogilvy stunt forces young drivers to check themselves before they wreck themselves—and others

The shock tactics directed at young drivers on TV don’t seem to have the desired effect anymore. So Ogilvy instead decided to use shock tactics with a hoax ad and a fake but fairly intense phone message to try and drive home the point that fast cars can be deadly.

As part of a Waitakere City Council awareness initiative to try and curb street racing, Ogilvy creatives Matt Williams and Freddie Coltart put a 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX, the performance car of choice for late-night illegal burns through West Auckland streets, for sale on a range of online trading sites for just $8,000. Ads were also posted in several newspapers and on the streets of Waitakere. The car itself also cruised the speeding hot spots donned with ‘For Sale’ stickers and the seller’s phone number.

Almost 1,000 boy racers enquired about the car in two weeks but they received something they weren’t expecting when they did—a voicemail message from ‘Jake’, a hysterical, crying ‘owner’ who had tragically killed a child by racing the car too fast (call 09 280 3098 to listen to the fairly harrowing message or download it here WC003 Car For Sale Mix17-09).

“We didn’t want to make an ad as such. We wanted to make an impact directly on boy racers by confronting them, in a real situation, with what could become very real consequences for driving cars such as these irresponsibly,” says Williams; “In a way it’s kind of a social experiment which we don’t think has ever been done before to address an issue like this, and the results are surprising.”

Out of the 300 messages left on the phone number’s voice message bank to date, Williams says around three quarters didn’t leave a message but just hung up after hearing the voice recording.

“We hope the underlying message got through to these listeners, many of whom would probably be involved in street racing. A certain kind of person buys a car like Jake’s. If it at least gets them thinking about what the effect of their driving could be, not only on their own lives, but also others in the community, we’ve made a difference.”

Amazingly, Williams says about 20 percent of the callers were actually still keen to buy the car after hearing the message and didn’t seem to be too concerned by it and about 10 percent offered their condolences but still wanted to buy the car. He says none of the callers got angry at being punked, but now that Ogilvy has come clean about it he thinks there could be a few to come.

“We had a few comments from callers who expressed concern about the tragedy but still wanted to buy the car in spite of the pain it had caused by being driven dangerously. Some didn’t seem concerned in the slightest, but just wanted to get their hands on a fast car. I think that shows that there’s still plenty of work to do to get the safer-driving message through.”

Williams says they didn’t get permission for the stunt, either from Subaru or Trade Me (“shoot first ask questions later,” he says). And even though Trade Me pulled the auction after about half an hour it still generated around 500 calls. The auction stayed up on the other sites, like Performance Car and AutoTrader, for over a week, however.

“Trade Me were pretty good about it. They said we should’ve just asked them, but if we asked them then they might have said no and we wouldn’t have been able to do it,” he says.

The new deputy mayor-elect of Auckland, Penny Hulse, who is an enthusiastic supporter of the campaign, says more needs to be done at a grass roots level to address the issue of speeding.

“When the Ogilvy creatives came to me with this idea I was immediately engaged. It was clever and we just knew it would get a safe driving message out there to those who need to hear it most,” she says. “It was certainly an unusual approach, but the high number of phone calls show it was a well targeted campaign. Hundreds of young men will have heard the distraught message, and hopefully that will carry through to them thinking about driving safer and slower.”

John Finch, director of the Right Track programme, a unique 42-hour course that teaches young people about the consequences of dangerous driving, says the ‘Car for sale’ campaign takes a much-needed fresh approach to addressing the issue of dangerous driving by youth offenders.

“We know that the TV ads don’t make an impact on the driving habits of youth. They just zone out. What we need to do is effect an attitudinal change that will transform behaviour from the inside out. It’s what we set out to do with Right Track, finding a new way to communicate the message … There are still a lot of people in the Waitakere area with a ‘wild west’ mentality, whose activities—for whatever reason—combine speeding, drinking and antisocial driving. More than anything, they need educating. The ad campaign will have made an impact on some of these young people already, which we hope will get them thinking about their actions on the road.”

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