When it comes to advertising, I like to consider myself fairly unshockable (well, I have been around a while). I don’t tend to respond at all to ads that play upon cheap shock-tactics to communicate their message. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting to be moved in any way by Transport for London’s (TfL) latest campaign promoting road safety. Oh, how wrong I was.
I believe that everyday consumers are intuitive enough to apply a level of insight even if they are not experts in this field. They certainly know when they are being manipulated. This is why I thought the TfL campaign was going to be a bit of a damp squib.
A pretty good example of this past approach is evident if you cast your mind back to the ‘Julie knew her killer’ ad, which depicts a passenger hurtling into the driver because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and you may be able to understand my stance on this. Here is a perfect example of an important message losing its value because its manipulation of the audience was too obvious. This advert does exactly what I have said that I dislike; it relies far too heavily on blood, shock and tawdry surprise to elicit some sort of response from viewers – in the end not a real-world connection.
This is why I was pleasantly surprised when I saw TfL’s Share the Road – “Be the Voice of Reason”. Far from being a heart-stopping crash scene, the bods over at TfL have obviously put some thought into this one. Shot in evocative black and white and taking us on a tour of London’s streets, the ad communicates not only a message of road safety, but of respect. The narrator underlines the viewer’s connection to London and emphasises the necessary compassion we should have for others.
This may sound rather mundane, but it is delivered in quite an emotive way that makes you think. Now, don’t take this as an example of me going soft, but this advert came as close to being a genuinely moving experience as possible.
Whilst it may not be particularly innovative in look or feel, it does play on positive human feelings. This makes for a change to all the doom-and-gloom outlook that has gone before.
For me this is a spot-on public information film. It does not preach or disappear up its proverbial. It quietly nudges you to think about how you should conduct yourself while on the streets in a meaningful way, to consider how our actions can affect our lives and more importantly the lives of others. TfL and M&C Saatchi deserve the plaudits I’m sure the ad will receive.
Mike Cavers is executive creative director at DST Global Insight Group (The GIG at DST)