From Tinnyvision to milkshake disasters: NZTA continues its fight against drug-driving—UPDATED


NZTA’s latest drug-driving campaign ‘Thoughts’ via Clemenger BBDO includes a TVC which in the coming weeks will have a series of comedians overdubbing it, so the trivial (but funny) thoughts of a stoned-driver and his mate will continually change.

While the dangers of drink driving have been well established for some time now, it’s relatively early days for spreading awareness about drug-driving, says Clemenger BBDO executive creative director Brigid Alkema.

“ … over the years we have told the nation not to drink and drive and they have bought the message but in some ways our great work on drink driving makes people [who smoke weed]go, ‘Oh well, what I’m doing is harmless, I’m only smoking weed’. So we are trying to get people to question it,” she says.

Over the coming months that the campaign will run, about six different comedians will voice the thoughts of the stoned driver and his friend.

A version without a voice over was launched on Sunday, and tonight the overdubbed version will be released [see video in original story below]using the funny wandering thoughts of comedian Josh Thomson.

“It’s so flexible and open and we can invite anything in, anything topical going on in New Zealand and it keeps it alive and fresh and intriguing and adds a different flavour to who these two characters could be,” she says.

She says eventually the New Zealand public will be invited to help out with the thoughts of the two friends, but she couldn’t give away any more details on that just yet.

“We want to keep that closed a little bit for now. We want to put a piece out there, then we watch and react to how the public is engaging with it. So we are waiting a good couple of weeks to see how the message has been taken on.”

NZTA gave Clemenger interesting insights and research into how the mind of a stoned person is affected, she says.

“[Stoned drivers] know their mind is affected and that’s why when they hop on the road they’re not completely frazzled, so they feel kind of fine to drive,” she says. “But they are affected and they compensate by driving slower and trying hard to be focused. But research told us that before they know it they are thinking about what is in the fridge at home or other things … their mind has wandered.”

The current campaign tries to mirror that behaviour, she says. “We always make sure the behaviour is honest and true, we don’t exaggerate. Everything is tested to make sure it is very, very relatable and honest and if we can hold that mirror up and tell an engaging story about these two guys and what the driver is trying to do and therefore the consequence of his mind being affected, then we are in a good place.”

Alkema says Clemenger has tried really hard to send the right message with its drug-driving campaigns, which is no easy feat.

“We cannot glamorise smoking weed, but we can’t judge people either. That’s not the NZTA’s role to say whether they should or shouldn’t [smoke]. But when they turn on the ignition and roll out to the road, that is where we step in,” she says.

“We cannot judge, we cannot point the finger, their minds will close. Humour really helps and tells a relatable story that people will engage with. Humour disarms people and when you laugh along with something you kind of agree and you’re taking in the message. Humour allows us to go through the heart to get to the head and it’s worked for us with all of the drug-driving campaigns.”

There are people smoking weed from all walks of life, she says. “They are intelligent, they are likeable, they are people with families or careers, they aren’t the stereotypical stoner guy sitting in a flat.”

She says it is important not to stereotype. “So we have the different comedians voiced by the common man. Every time you see [the ad]you’ll hear something different and I think that is in itself very clever. From all walks of life, and from all parts of the country.”

Original story: 22 February

NZTA and Clemenger BBDO have released a new drug-driving campaign called ‘Thoughts’ to help prevent Kiwis from smoking up and then getting out on the road. And like its previous efforts it’s added a bit of humour without diminishing the seriousness of the message.

In the ad, two friends are driving around, apparently after stopping to get some fast food due to a serious case of the munchies.

The driver appears to think he’s being safe. He’s not speeding, even checking the speedo to make sure he’s not going too fast. His friend also helps him out by feeding him chips so he doesn’t have to  focus on driving and eating.

But, though he’s taking precautions, he can’t prevent the involuntary trivial stream of thoughts (such as why we haven’t beaten mosquitos yet) and minor distractions which cause him to take his eyes from the road.

And taking them off the road for even a second is all it takes to crash (and be covered in strawberry milkshake).

There is also a second version without the dialogue.

It can’t be easy to create a campaign on drug driving that hits the target audience in a humorous, yet effective way.

As we’ve learned recently from Stoner Sloth, it’s not hard to miss the mark and create something that seems cool, funny and relatable, yet becomes the source of ridicule. Or worse yet, a reason to get stoned.

The Stoner Sloth campaign facilitated by the NSW government was an attempt to warn teenagers against regular marijuana use by using an oversized, blazed sloth, which struggles to focus or complete a task as simple enough as passing the salt.

Little did the NSW government know, Stoned Sloth was actually the name of an online cannabis store, according to The Guardian and soon after National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre distanced itself from the campaign as parodies of the ad started surfacing.

Of course, sloths are also a popular internet meme.

But, the NZTA and Clemenger seem to have got this difficult equilibrium down to tee.

Its previous drug-driving campaigns include Snapchat ‘Tinnyvision’, which documented a group of four Kiwi stoners mucking around, smoking weed and doing funny stuff.

The story took a bad turn when the four friends featured in the snaps went out for a drive to get takeaways.

Another previous ad called ‘Blazed’, targeting the Maori community, which showed how children view the behaviour of their blazed parents also managed to be funny without compromising the serious message behind the ad.

The same can be said of its ‘Shop keepers‘ ad, where shop keepers discuss how dysfunctional the stoned customers are who come in and take a long time to order food, order lots of one thing, or struggle to use the Eftpos machine. The message behind the ad is if the stoned customers can hardly order, then perhaps they shouldn’t be driving.

The NZTA website says drug-driving is a complex issue as 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 NZTA says its drug-driving campaigns target people who use cannabis and think it’s okay to drive or that it has little effect on their driving.

“They may 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.”

Research carried out by the institute of Environmental Science and Research shows that around one-quarter of all drivers and motorcyclists killed in road crashes were found to have cannabis present in their system, with or without substances.

“Their research also shows cannabis to be the second most common drug found in blood samples of deceased drivers. The first is alcohol,” according to the NZTA.

The NZTA says in a national poll, 56 percent of respondents thought drug-affected driving was a problem and 32 percent said it was safe to smoke cannabis and then drive.


Client: NZ Transport Agency

Principal scientist (NZTA): Paul Graham
Principal advisor (NZTA): Rachel Prince

Agency: Clemenger BBDO/Proximity

Executive creative director: Brigid Alkema
Creative: Frances Cooke
Creative: Millicent Malcolm         
Agency producer: Marty Gray
Group account director: Linda Major
Account director: Bethany Omeri

Production company: Ruskin Films
Director: Nathan Price
Producer: Claris Harvey
DoP: Ginny Loans
Editor: Tim Mauger
Online: Blockhead
Online editor: Stefan Corey
Sound design: Paul Stent
Original music: Lee Prebble and Barnaby Weir

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