Road safety videos reflect diverging trends in campaigning

  • February 25, 2015

New road safety campaigns from France and Finland take vastly different approaches to getting road safety messages across.

The new French video, launched in February, shows in bleak, close-up images the impact of road collisions on several individuals who suffered life changing injuries, and their families. It follows a number of increasingly shocking films released in recent months that have included a class of primary school children wiped out by a car, a fake ‘funeral’ for speeding motorists and a film released by police showing the moments leading up to a real, fatal motorcycle collision.

The Finnish clip, released this month in an English version by ETSC’s member Liikenneturva as part of a campaign on distracted driving, takes a markedly different approach.  Using uplifting music, a powerful voiceover and a sequence of positive images of people using their phones in everyday life, its final frames show an accident avoided, accompanied by the simple message ‘When you drive, just drive’.

A recent article in The Economist newspaper questioned the power of ‘scary adverts’ citing evidence showing that positive anti-smoking publicity caused more people to ring a helpline than pictures of tumours erupting disgustingly out of cigarettes.  Josh Bullmore, an advertising industry executive who has made and studied such campaigns says gory, shocking public-information films linger in people’s heads, but do not alter behaviour much. If the consequences seem too extreme, the threat may seem too far-fetched, he says.

There is little doubt that shocking clips can count viewers in the millions.  The motorcycle crash film put online by a local British police force has been watched more than 15 million times.

However, positive messages can also score huge numbers. Budweiser’s recent campaign on drink driving showed a young man reunited with his dog after staying at a friend’s house rather than driving home drunk. It currently stands at 22 million views.

The videos mentioned above can all be viewed on ETSC’s YouTube channel.