Friday, November 1, 2013

Driven to Distraction

Which Rochester ad agency didn't get the message about distracted driving?

The Rochester Advertising Council's 2013 campaign "Yeah, You're that Distracting" has helped make motorists aware that texting while driving can have fatal results. It convinced me that multitasking behind the wheel was a great way to wreck a car, and likely injure someone.

But their great campaign doesn't stop outdoor advertising initiatives like this one:

The photo isn't mine. Someone -- perhaps a local TV journalist -- grabbed this image with a smartphone and posted it to a social media feed.

I'm betting many other motorists did the same thing, and maybe even added a snarky comment.

Free publicity? Sure. And Twitter users' tendency to repost and add their own comments are likely to give the athletic club's modest two-billboard campaign a broader reach than they'd have earned if they'd purchased 10 normal billboards.

However: campaigns like this PROMOTE distracted driving. When I first saw the billboard above a local highway, I slowed down to decode what it said, neglecting other cars that might have followed me. I didn't grab my smartphone, but I'm sure other drivers will.

Side point: upside-down billboards are a tired advertising strategy, akin to writing "L@@K" atop a classified ad. Creatively speaking, the agency behind this effort needs an internal creative audit.

But the lesson here is: the Rochester Ad Council's campaign should include outreach to every local ad agency, asking them to eschew outdoor campaigns that promote distracted driving behaviors. The athletic club may have a great value proposition, but neither the club nor its agency partners should engage in a campaign that tempts drivers to play with their smartphones at 60 MPH.