Why this New Zealand speeding PSA is blowing people’s minds

Published: Wednesday, January 8, 2014

This newly-released PSA from the New Zealand Transport Agency has gone viral this week for its breath-taking portrayal of a traffic accident.

I want to break down the video — created by Clemenger BBDO — and walk through exactly what makes it such a great, hard-hitting ad.

1. They framed the problem in an entirely new way

Traffic PSAs are nothing new. So, what drove this whole new perspective?

The first step for an ad or campaign should be to frame the problem or opportunity in a new and compelling way. In this case, the folks at BBDO seem to have done just that.

Most agencies probably look at the issue of speeding from the perspective of convincing speeders that they are endangering other people. We’ve heard things like “speed kills” and other such lines for decades. While this may true, there are other ways to look at the role of speeding in traffic accidents.

This video hinges on something less direct: Speeding can be dangerous, but it isn’t always the cause of every accident. Instead, we see how driving too fast gives you less time to react to mistakes that other drivers may make. This small shift in thinking plants the seed for an entirely new approach.

2. They dramatically changed the perspective about the issue

To change someone’s actions, you have to first change their thinking. After framing the problem in a new way, the next step is to change people’s perspectives.

We often think of traffic accidents as instant, freak occurrences. One person makes a mistake while driving and it leads to a collision. There’s no planning or thought before it occurs. But, what this video does with such effect is reframe the entire experience as something slow and cerebral — instead of a crash, it becomes a negotiation between two drivers.

3. They tapped into a key human insight

The negotiation aspect of this ad drives home something that we all know but rarely consider: Every time we get behind the wheel, we are agreeing to a social contract.

We all agree to obey certain traffic laws and driving behaviors that keep ourselves and others on the road safe from harm. What this ad does so beautifully is bring this insight into the open, making it all too obvious how our conscious decision to break the speed limit is, at a basic level, a breach of this agreement that we all make.

Rather than pointing the finger at those who speed and placing blame on them, it instead reminds us of this human element — we all want to be safe on the road and it’s our responsibility to uphold our end of this social contract.

Many great ads hit these same key points. This video is especially striking because it seems that we unfortunately see few fresh ideas for selling messages about public safety. Hopefully, we’ll see more ads like this in the future, and hopefully they will help change our behavior for the better.

About me

My name is Tyler Hakes. I'm a digital strategist in Des Moines. I write and tweet about marketing, strategy, media, and technology.

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