, February 25, 2024

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Preventing Accidents without Being Offensive

  •   3 min reads
Preventing Accidents without Being Offensive
By Vincent R. Pozon

We were stopped at a red light for a few minutes, and while the traffic was only three cars deep, our cab driver was shaking his head and apologizing. "You call this traffic?," so said the contents of the cab, all tickled Filipinos, in unison. This is Auckland, officially blessed as the world's most livable city for seven years straight, where stores close early and people stream out of the metropolis to the idyllic suburbs before nightfall; a city in the land where everybody is backdropped with breathtaking scenery, that country with more sheep than people. It truly is the “Shire”, and not just in J. R. R. Tolkien's mind and movies.

I recently saw an old public service ad for safe driving. It is considered as one of the best, and so I scoured the internet for others like it. The common denominator amongst them is that they're all from New Zealand. I found their brand refreshingly distinct, to be specific, distinct from the products of Madison Avenue, which would normally be characterized by gore galore and everything short of requiring warnings. You know, the usual Shock and Awe taste and tactic of Americans.

I suspect the avoidance of the ugly is cultural. New Zealanders after all are "generally calm and may initially seem slightly more reserved and polite in comparison to other English-speakers... their culture is still highly informal and relaxed", so notes The Cultural Atlas.

If not cultural, then maybe they simply have a better ad agency, or the traffic bureau are advertising clients who allow good work. An ad agency can only be as creative, as daring as the client will allow it to be. When a government entity allows good work, you know the government people involved are braver than normal bureaucrats.

PSAs Don't Need to Be Ugly to Be Effective

In advertising, the limitation is time, hence the swift draw is usually necessary, especially when the viewer has the option to swipe away or "skip ad" after five seconds. In this celebrated and viral PSA, the blink of an eye that is the second before an accident is an eerily luxurious amount of time. The impending accident is held in abeyance, and both drivers get out of their vehicles and meet in the middle of the road to understand what brought them to that point. Knowing the nature of accidents and our reaction time, the pause is an especially brilliant idea. The mind is intrigued by the notion of being given more time, even just a few more seconds, time to think, react better, revise or redo.

WHEN PEOPLE ARE IMPRESSED by an ad, they laud the crafts people. They forget that it is the astuteness of the client that is the spring for breakthrough advertising, the courage of the client that allows millions to be spent; the marketing wisdom of the client that carries the campaign through the years, even decades.

Whatever the reason behind these effective public service announcements, be it a better ad agency or braver clients, or because Kiwis are just gentler and more respectful, the ads continue to be produced, and, yes, they are ads we wish we wrote, ads we wish our government could allow.

NOBODY'S MISTAKE. The ad did not point to either as cause of accident.

THERE ARE QUALITIES more important than color.


PEOPLE FORGET: prescription medications are drugs.

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