Message mastery creates shift

imagesYoung men between 18 and 21 are at the highest risk in terms of road fatalities. But how do you get an 18-year-old man, who thinks he is invincible, to drive safely?

The New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) recognised the problem it had.   RTA knew the behaviour it wanted to shift. The challenge was to craft a message that would work for an audience that didn’t respond to conventional fear-based campaigns.

They went straight for the jugular, with a clever campaign based on the eternal attraction between the sexes, but with a simple twist.

Girls were shown watching a teenage boy speeding and behaving like a road-rager. In a simple but emotionally-charged gesture, they show the boy their pinkie fingers. It needs no words to explain that girls think boys who drive like maniacs are compensating for inadequacies elsewhere! 

This behavioural change crusade, known as the ‘pinkie’ campaign, was splashed across media and Clemenger BBDO Sydney executive creative director, Paul Nagy, explained the success: 

“It was memorable because it bucked the trend of speeding ads showing torn metal and shocking deaths. And it contained a brilliant insight: you speed to look big, but the very people you’re trying to impress think the exact opposite of you.” 

It’s funny and it hits the target audience where it hurts most: in the ego. What’s more, it worked. Pinkie’ became one of NSW’s most successful campaigns. Follow-up research showed three-quarters of young drivers said the ads had encouraged them to stick to the speed limit.

Statistics showed that in NSW, only a year into the campaign, 22 fewer P-plate drivers died compared with statistics from the year before.

Quite simply, ‘shift’ identifies behaviour, defines the new thinking or action required, and isolates the audience for whom the message is intended.  

Yet surprisingly few influencers start here.

What do you want to shift with your messages? 

Please comment, I love hearing from you.

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  • David Corduff

    Hi Yamini,
    It was pleasing to read of the success of the ‘pinkie’ ad promoting safe driving for young males. The RTA are to be commended for using a different approach to convince young guys that speeding is dicing with fatality.
    I lost my 21 your old younger brother to a double car fatality (his best friend) due to speed and my family never recovered from the shock.
    Even if this ad saves one life, it will be one family less traumatised by the needless loss.

    • Yamini Naidu

      Dear David
      My sincere condolences, how traumatic and horrific for you and your family. Like many families I too lost my cousin brother in a road accident (his best friend survived) more than 30 years ago, but it stills haunts our family to this day. Like you said, even if one life is saved and one family spared the grief and trauma, it’s totally worth it.
      I am so glad that RTA had the courage to buck the trend and try something unconventional based on a deep understanding of their young and vulnerable audience.
      Best wishes

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