Campaign against drinking & driving: the role of advertising

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drinkSaw this ad from UK, urging women not to go on a drinking binge. The aim is to appeal to women’s vanity and thereby create a change in habit. Such efforts to change long-standing habits like smoking & drunk driving depend a lot on law enforcement for effectiveness. Advertising too, has a role to play and it reminded me of another campaign.

In my previous job, I was exposed to a fantastic campaign from Grey Melbourne, against drinking & driving. Developed for the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) of Australia, its objective was to discourage people from drinking & driving. A common enough goal for city corporations across the world, but what set this apart was the boldness in strategy, insightful advertising and hard hitting execution. Fatal accidents, related medical costs & insurance claims were high and TAC along with Grey decided to not simply discourage but scare the hell out of consumers.

All of the ads were based on insights from everyday life. For example, one of the common attitudes towards drinking & driving is to feel that ‘a short distance is managebale’. During the Christmas holdiays, celebrations led to drunken driving. Each one of these insights were then translated into creative messages. This one, titled ‘Pub’ tackles the issue of ‘my home is only a short distance away’:

The Christmas one was even more hard hitting:

The baseline ‘If you drink, then drive you are a bloody idiot’ was typically Ausssie. It also made the likely offenders take umbrage and feel stupid. Over the years, the campaigns chose to attack other issues related to road accidents – like speeding. Again, the message was specific instead of general: reduce 5 kmph and save lives. The campaign went on to win several awards and according to the TAC website, has played a role in reducing road deaths in Australia.

Compared to generic messages which are strung on banners in India during New Year’s Eve, such an approach is likely to be more effective. ‘Don’t drink & drive’ has almost got the same tone as ‘Season’s greetings’ in India. Along with stringent measures from the police, a communication effort like the one above yields fantastic results.


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  1. The only way you are going to stop drunken driving is rigorous DUI tests where cops don’t take mamool. Increase fines for DUI and of course revoke license for repeat offenders and incorporate this into the insurance policy too for which we need something like a social security number kind of system.

    This of course is impossible in a country like India. We thrive on bribes and getting away with things. No point debating and wasting time on it because we are going to die and kill other people with drunken driving. Why even bother with drunken driving? Are we driving in a civilized manner in the first place? The day nobody honks like they are coming at the speed of light when the traffic signal counts down under 12 for the green, that day India has decent drivers.

  2. Dilip, thanks. Apparently the situation in Mumbai has vastly improved after a serious implementation of fine for DUI. There is still a role for advertising to play in improving driving etiquette.

  3. anything that makes you think or creates an awareness helps – i’ve taken trainings across the country – and believe me across all strata of society its the lack of awareness on the risks involved that people drink and drive.
    These hard hitting videos hit you where it hurts the most – your heart.
    And that makes you think.

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