Last Updated on March 25, 2015 by Morris Green
From catchy slogans like Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk to now popular, Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving, the AdCouncil has been behind some of the most influential drunk driving prevention programs across the country. Millions of dollars are spent every year to spread awareness and encourage responsible behavior for drivers.
Since 1980, the AdCouncil has worked with media agencies, donated advertising and state campaigns to make our roads safer and prevent drunk driving. In the beginning, the campaigns were directed to friends, families and alcohol establishments. The messages ranged from “Drinking and Driving Can Kill a Friendship” and evolved to the widely recognized “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” tagline in the 1990s. The idea was that a friend or loved one should take responsibility and not allow others to get behind the wheel if they are not sober. During this time, designated driver campaigns also became popular, encouraging both the person drinking and their friend or family member to take responsibility to prevent drunk driving.
The AdCouncil reports:
During the time this campaign was in market, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities decreased from approximately 21,000 people in 1982 (or about 50% of all motor vehicle fatalities) to 12,500 people in 1999 (or about 30% of all motor vehicle fatalities).
Even with the decrease in number of fatalities across the country, the number of crashes involving drunk drivers started increasing in 2000. This led the AdCouncil to hire a media agency to conduct research to discover who is impacted and influenced by the ad campaigns.
The team set out to assess the problem and identify the mindset of the target audience. First, the Ad Council reviewed the data on major trends in drunk driving. Drawing on several research studies, including an exhaustive study by the firm Porter Novelli, a demographic and psychographic profile was developed of those most likely to get behind the wheel impaired. In June 2003, the team conducted a series of focus groups with the target audience in several markets.
Through this research, the mindset of the target audience became clearer. These young men aged 21–34 are mostly well-meaning “average Joes” who don’t intend any harm but continue to drink and drive. Many have driven impaired multiple times in the past without getting in trouble. They tend to feel either invincible or just overly optimistic about the control they have over their lives. Throughout the research, one theme kept coming up. The most common excuses for impaired driving were “I’m just buzzed” or “I just had a few.” “Buzzed” was part of the target’s vernacular.
In response to the research findings, the Ad Council and NHTSA decided to refocus the Drunk Driving Prevention campaign. Rather than target the intervener, the new campaign would target those most likely to drive impaired.
The AdCouncil reported, since the launch of refocused drunk driving campaigns, the number of people who have died in a highway crash involving a driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher has decreased steadily each year, from about 13,500 in 2005 to just under 11,000 in 2009. The success of the “Buzzed Driving” campaign can be attributed to a number of factors including a strong research-based foundation, help from law enforcement, an appropriate tone, and an engaging and hard-hitting message directed at the target audience. By reaching as many people as it has—and by continuing to take advantage of favorable momentum—the campaign has undeniably played a role in saving lives and will continue to do so as it evolves with all future efforts.
What Do You Think?
Have you noticed drunk driving campaigns on the television, radio or social media? Do they come to mind and influence your decision to drive sober?