New Zealand's Clever New Ad Has a Fresh Take on Distracted Driving

Another winner from Clemenger BBDO

Distracted driving is one of the great themes of today's PSAs, with scores of spots annually making the same essential point—that using your phone in the car can be deadly. 

But here's a compelling new take on the subject, courtesy of NZ Transport Agency and Clemenger BBDO, makers of loads of memorable road-safety ads, including 2014's classic "Mistakes" spot and this year's striking "Belted Survivors" print ads. 

Let driving distract you

Why risk life and limb by engaging in distracted driving when the ride itself—uninterrupted by texts, email, calls and apps—offers its own soothing distraction from the tech-heavy drumbeat of modern life? 

"This audience knows phone-distracted driving is dangerous," says Clemenger executive creative director Brigid Alkema. "But no matter how beautifully, ferociously or aggressively this danger was packaged [in PSAs] for our audience, it wasn't sinking in meaningfully. The phone continued to win." 

Obstacles include the fact that people don't like the government telling them what to do, as well as the ability, via technology, to quickly and effectively shut out unwanted messages. 

"To persuade them to exert the effort it takes to break this habitual behavior, we had to make them want to do it," Alkema says. "Our job was to earn our way into our audience's world and connect through what they believe in. In this case, our connection point was our audience's growing desire to take back control from their phones." 

Many brands have driven the digital time-out route, ranging from Georgia-Pacific's Dixie to luggage provider Delsey and, most recently, WeTransfer, which urged consumers to "Please Leave" the internet for a while and add to their life experience. 

However, adapting the concept to road safety, and positioning the journey as a respite from online intrusion, feels like a sensible approach, especially in light of recent surveys showing folks crave opportunities to unplug. 

The video's upbeat, nonjudgemental vibe is a plus, and NZ Transport wisely depicts unplugging as addition (more time for contemplation and personal renewal) rather than subtraction (you can always check your phone later while ignoring some street mime). 

"On set we were, well, hypocrites," Alkema recalls. "While we were busy making this dystopian film about how phones have taken over our lives, we were all busy on our phones. The mime took great joy in mimicking us. It was art imitating life imitating art." 

Moreover, the campaign strives to "really celebrate those showing strength by denying the urge to check their phone while driving," adds NZ Transport advertising advisor Rachel Prince. "All power to you checking those likes in the shower, just not behind the wheel." 

CREDITS

Client: NZ Transport Agency
Agency: Clemenger BBDO Wellington
Media Agency: OMD
Production Company: Sweetshop
Director: Jakob Marky
Managing Director: Fiona King 
Executive Producer: Ben Dailey 
Producer: Larisa Tiffin
Editors:  Jo Scott, ARC
Rasmus Gitz-Johansen
Post Production:  Perceptual Engineering Auckland
VFX Artist: Jon Baxter
Colourist: Julien Alary
Sound Designer & Composer: Cam Ballantyne, Beatworms

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.