Driving drunk is never a pre-planned decision. It's usually a bad decision compounded by unintended circumstances, but one that very often has dire consequences.
To make sure that message sinks in, the Ad Council, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the TVB and local TV broadcasters are banding together for the ninth annual "Project Roadblock" anti- drunk driving series of PSAs. This year's Project Roadblock initiative is called "Project Roadblock: Local TV Puts the Brakes on Drunk Driving" and will run during the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve.
While the Ad Council's anti-drunk driving campaign runs throughout the year, the Christmas/New Year's holidays are a particularly dangerous time on America's roads, with the highest incidence of drunk driving fatalities. That's why there's such an ardent effort that is undertaken during this particular week each year. These are real lives at stake, and as a result, more stations each year join the cause.
One local TV broadcaster doesn't make this work. It's only possible due to so many stations, so many markets, and so many organizations working in concert to drive this message home. This concerted effort among all of these groups has caused a sociological shift in people's behavior, a Herculean task achieved in the only real way possible on such a mass scale – through television messaging.
A recent post-Project Roadblock analysis showed that 58% of drinking-age adults, along with 61% of the core target of M21-35, recall having seen these ads during the Project Roadblock week. Moreover, 59% of people over 21 responded that they wouldn't drive themselves home if they were out and feeling "buzzed" (this year's campaign will continue with the "buzzed driving is drunk driving" theme).
This is a real-life example of how powerful these television messages are. Consider that we're trying to create behavioral change in people – while you're out celebrating at the most celebratory period of the year for most people, a television ad is delivering a message of social responsibility. And statistics show that it's working.
You'll often hear us talk about the proven ability of television ads to reach and influence consumers; that television ads have the most impact of all media in driving sales. But these statistics are even more important, because this is not about moving product or supporting a brand – each of these data points represents a life. And these are real lives that stations are saving by participating in this cause, and as more and more stations sign up, they'll work even better. Fatalities will go down as a result.
The TV ads also will not only focus upon the life-or-death aspects of drunk/buzzed driving, but the financial, legal and even social consequences as well. In theory, if you're misanthropic enough to still drive drunk, perhaps loss of money, status and freedom might make you think twice about getting behind the wheel when you shouldn't. Guilt, pain, embarrassment, financial duress – hey, any message to motivate people to honestly reexamine their fitness to drive each time they get behind the wheel should be fair game when the stakes are this high.
Conversely, this is a very public demonstration of the philanthropy practiced by local television broadcasters. Last year, over 800 stations and close to 280 digital subchannels donated millions of dollars worth of airtime, mobile and online space to Project Roadblock – which reached over 98% of the country.
That's effectively a nationwide commitment to community.
Local stations get directly involved beyond airing televised PSAs. They even take it directly to the street, partnering with taxi services in their communities to offer free rides during those most vulnerable nights. There are social media campaigns, as stations deliver text messages to subscribers about drinking and driving. They use their Facebook pages and Twitter to deliver these messages as well. They'd probably use sky writing, Morse Code and smoke signals if they thought that they would reach just one more person with this message.
They use as much of their messaging power that they can to prevent just one more story of innocent life lost due to someone's impairment and hubris.
Unfortunately, there is still work to be done. The 59% of people who have said that they won't drive buzzed isn't enough. It's the remaining 41% of their friends and neighbors that the stations still have to convince that makes this such an important campaign to support.
Drunk driving may be a national problem, but all accidents are local.
Let's put the brakes on drunk driving. Support Project Roadblock again this year, and save more lives.
Don Seaman joined the TVB in January 2012 as Manager of Marketing Communications, where he is responsible for promoting and raising awareness of the TVB, and of Local Broadcast Television’s value propositions within the traditional and digital media industries. Don can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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