Don’t drink and drive, get a car

Steven | marketing, advertising & campaigns,Random Thoughts | Sunday, 20 December 2009

There’s a new BOB campaign in Belgium. These campaigns are designed to build awareness around drinking and driving, that it’s a bad idea. The campaign typically comes to live with the holidays around the corner, as in right now.

A BOB is a person who doesn’t drink, and safely drives his probably less sober passengers. The idea is to endorse this person, reward him even, symbolic.

However, I do believe this years campaign is pushing it.

bob campaign 2009: win a car

This year, one of these BOB’s (when checked upon by the police) will win a car.

Don’t get me wrong, I a) am in favor of any anti-drinking and driving awareness campaign; b) I like the concept of BOB a lot. I do believe the introduction of this concept has in fact saved quite some lives.

But give a car away? I think this brings the wrong message, and might even be counter productive. How is that?

First, I’m very much in favor of the symbolic approach. I do believe in positive endorsement, in general, but when it comes to alcohol controls, the thing that probably works best (at least on the short term) is fear for penalty. What the BOB campaign has established very well is, in the first place create awareness around alcohol campaigns (hey kids, we’re checking, you don’t want to get caught) and at the same time (and this is important) offer a way out. The introduction of the BOB is a solution to a problem. It’s not telling: you can’t party. It’s telling: you can party, but find a solution for drunk driving (don’t let us catch you). Choosing a BOB is a solution: you don’t drink this week, I’ll be sober next time.

The win-a-car angle is kind of counter productive in my mind. The symbolic part is gone, it got turned into a contest. A car matters, right? The campaign is telling: be good, win a price. Then what? I don’t win, too bad, drink again? Got beaten in a non drinking contest?

This brings us to the counter productive part. When I see a alcohol control is happening, I’m sure to start driving as if I were intoxicated. I can win a car, so it would be stupid to not get a chance to compete! So if you see a cue of cars that want to be alcohol checked, ask yourself if the campaign worked?

The press and police will most likely think it’s working, because there it’s all about the numbers (which plays on the don’t get caught message as well, by the way). The more cars checked on, the better. Well, think again. It’s about quality, not quantity kids!