You know you shouldn’t reach into your pocket and check your phone.
You know you should be concentrating on something else.
What happens next? If you’re like me you’ll have been itching to check your phone from the very first moment you noticed it vibrating, pleading for your attention, imploring you to cease concentrating on whatever else you were doing and devote your undivided attention to it – if only for a few seconds. Usually, diverting your attention to your phone may only have the consequences of an irked grandmother or a missed goal, yet sometimes it can have an altogether different outcome.
Research shows that 23% of all worldwide car accidents each year (totalling 1.3 million) involve mobile phone use, and in the US alone in 2012 3,328 people were killed in distraction-related crashes. Clearly, the modern ailment of not being able to leave our phones alone is having a serious effect on driving safety. Too often we have an attitude of “it won’t happen to me” and simply dismiss the gravitas of the situation.
It is difficult to combat such an ingrained part of modern society but that didn’t stop Volkswagen having a go.
This short video went viral earlier this year, racking up 27.5 million views in a little over 2 months. It shows a Hong Kong cinema packed full of filmgoers being given a sharp lesson in just how serious a small distraction can be. Hidden cameras watch as what looks like a run-of-the-mill uplifting car advert begins to play when a location based broadcaster sends a text message to everyone watching. Predictably, the majority immediately reach into their pockets and pull out their phones, only for the previously jovial advert to suddenly turn nightmarish, the car slamming into a tree, clearly killing the occupant. It is abundantly clear to the audience that the point-of-view filming style is designed to symbolise the fact that this could easily happen to them – all from checking their phones for a few seconds.
This advertising campaign is a PR masterstroke, having the dual effect of raising awareness of the dangers of texting while driving whilst portraying Volkswagen as a brand committed to the safety and wellbeing of its customers. The combination of what is essentially a public service announcement (PSA) with an advert highlights Volkswagen’s prioritisation of the safety of its customers whilst also generating significant attention, and with it commercial opportunities, for itself. Furthermore, the idea of an interactive advert is an innovative way to truly involve the intended audience, beyond the usual level of engagement with passive advertising. Also, the use of hidden cameras and an unsuspecting audience is a sure-fire way of sending a campaign viral, hugely increasing its exposure and therefore efficacy.
The Volkswagen ‘Eyes on the road’ campaign is a testament to how powerful combining a PSA with an advertisement can be. It shows that brands can be shown to truly care about their customers whilst also maximising their own commercial prospects from the campaign. Combining the two is certain to generate positive coverage for the brand. Furthermore, it shows how an innovative campaign strategy, rather than tired and tested alternatives, can have a vastly improved effect not only on its immediate audience (in this case, the filmgoers) but on the wider public through proliferation on social media and the internet.
Having left the University of Sheffield with a degree in International Relations & Politics and two years experience in PR roles for student societies, I was eager to experience the world of professional PR. Joining Acceleris on a work experience basis as part of the Acceleris Academy has been a thoroughly rewarding and worthwhile experience that I would highly recommend. I have been supplied with a constant stream of varied and challenging work, which has helped to develop my skills and give me a real taste for what a career in PR would be like. The team here are welcoming, friendly and passionate. I certainly feel as if my time here has kept my eyes on the road, hopefully on track to a successful career in PR. If you would like to gain work experience in the PR industry, Acceleris is the place to come.
For further information, see the Acceleris Academy page.