10 Powerfully Creative Anti-Drunk Driving Ads


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According to a 2011 World Health Organization report, every year around 2.5 million people die due to alcohol-related causes – which amounts to more fatalities than those caused by AIDS or tuberculosis. It’s not surprising to learn that traffic accidents figure into this number, since the risk of death for drivers with a high blood alcohol content (BAC) is 385 times greater than it is for a driver with zero BAC in accidents involving only one car.

The results of a 2002 study showed that US drunk driving accidents cost an estimated $51 billion annually. And in view of the financial impact as well as all the injuries and lost lives, this preventable scourge is a matter of high priority for those in the health industry. Powerful, compelling advertisements can be used as influential tools to encourage people not to drink and drive. Here, we list 10 of the most provocative, creative and compelling anti-drunk driving ads from around the world.

10. Absolute Stupidity – Romania


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This advertisement, a clever play on Absolut Vodka ads, was created by Romanian agency Mercury Promotions. It offers a chillingly realistic glimpse of what could happen if you choose to drive under the influence. Bucharest Traffic Police released the ad in 2004.

The goal of anti-drunk driving campaigns is fairly straightforward: to encourage people to re-think their decision to get behind the wheel when they’re intoxicated. However, while the aim may be clear, the strategy with which to effectively meet the objective is a lot harder to pinpoint. Fear tactics are commonly employed, but researchers have found that the results of campaigns that use such methods are mixed.

9. Girl in Hospital – Brazil


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Researchers Richard Tay, Lucie Ozanne and Jati Santiono found that a fear-based anti-drunk driving campaign in New Zealand was only effective with particular sections of the population. They wrote, “The campaign is aimed at changing attitudes towards dangerous driving by focusing on the dramatic consequences of such behaviour and uses a strong appeal to the emotion of fear to achieve the objectives of the campaign.”

The advert above was created for the Sao Paulo government by Brazilian agency Lua Branca. It really hits home the consequences that drunk driving can have: it might just as easily put the driver, or a friend, in hospital as see them safe at home in bed.

8. Crushed Can – Brazil


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Published by Abramet, the Brazilian Association of Traffic Medicine, this image certainly packs a punch – so much so that the text itself is largely irrelevant. That said, researchers wonder whether such adverts affect the right people. “We don’t want everybody living in fear, but a certain amount of fear would make you stop your friends drinking and driving,” says Aimee Bowen, from UK road safety group, Brake. “Shock tactics do work, but they need to be targeted.” Additional research suggests that to be truly successful, this kind of advertising needs to be backed up by the strong enforcement of drunk driving laws.

7. Let’s Date – South Africa


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In December 2010, Drive Dry launched their “Let’s Date” campaign. This is one of their shocking adverts, created by Cape Town-based agency FoxP2. The message may flirt with being politically incorrect, but it certainly leaves an impression.

Although upping law enforcement can be effective, another tactic employed by some pubs in the UK (following the lead set in the US) is to make it easier on designated drivers to choose not to drink. The drinking establishments offer free sodas, tea and coffee for designated drivers, encouraging positive behavior by throwing in a few perks. Another method used is to offer free transport home.

Yet perhaps the best policy for tackling the issue is to combine many different tactics – from surprise breathalyzer tests to a larger police presence. One approach alone isn’t likely to be enough, even if it’s as hard-hitting as the print ad pictured above.

6. One Drink Can Change Your Entire Outlook – US


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“One drink can change your entire outlook,” reads this advert, which was published by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The ad was created in December 2008 by US ad agency Marked for Trade, and it does a good job of communicating its point without being too graphic or frightening. This can be a particularly important issue when it comes to television advertisements because, according to researchers, shocking ads can cause children to fret and feel guilty and upset. A recent study found that in 2011-2012, nearly a third of children aged 11 to 16 had been distressed by an advertisement. One TV commercial that particularly disturbed viewers showed a boy playing with a ball prior to being killed by a vehicle driven by a soccer player.

5. Alcohol Is Stronger Than You Think – Portugal


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This advertisement reads, “Alcohol is stronger than you think.” The image of an out-of-control car crashing into a wine glass certainly catches the eye. And this perhaps isn’t the kind of shocking drunk driving advert you’d expect: it’s fresh, creative and thought provoking. Published in 2009, the ad was created by agency Fisher Portugal as part of a campaign that showed various vehicles crashing into different alcoholic drinks. The adverts were designed for the Salvador Association, a disability education and awareness group based in Lisbon, Portugal.

4. Reserved For… – South Africa


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Of course, not all adverts need to play on our fears like the grim Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) ad pictured above, which gives the reserved parking idea a morbid twist. The ad was published in 2004 and was created by Publicis Johannesburg.

Interestingly, rather than shock and fear, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) chose comedy as a device in its Legend campaign. The published video clip shows a young man getting the guts up to tell his friend that he shouldn’t drive after drinking; it follows his thought process working up to the decision and ends humorously and positively. Some of the phrases in the clip have even caught on, and it went viral on Facebook and in just its first six days had been viewed 120,000 times on YouTube. Within two weeks, YouTube views of the video had risen to nearly one million, proving just how popular a good campaign can be when tailored correctly. Currently, the video has been viewed more than two million times.

3. The Consequences Stay With You Forever – Canada


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Part of the reason the NZTA’s Legend campaign was so successful is that it showed people that they could make positive choices in tough situations. This could very well be the clincher when it comes to effective anti-drunk driving ad campaigns.

In 2009, Canada’s University of Regina carried out a study of 25 anti-drunk driving campaigns in five different countries. They found that the most effective campaigns were those that didn’t just stress the negative consequences of drunk driving but that provided people with a different course of action.

Cleverly showing how such consequences stay with people for life (if not actually offering the extra step of an alternative), the advert pictured above was released in 2011 by Mothers Against Drink Driving. It was created by Canadian agency Innocean Worldwide.

2. He Tripped On the Dancefloor – Australia


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This print ad was created by Perth-based agency Marketforce and was published in 2007. The image is unsparingly direct, but the title and artistic presentation – so light-seeming by contrast – generate a lot of curiosity. How could this happen by simply tripping on the dance floor? The answer is provided by the smaller block of text, which explains that although drinking might make you embarrass yourself while dancing, it can also lead to far more serious consequences if you get behind the wheel as it “kills driving skills.”

Although this ad warns people of the effects of drunk driving, offering alternatives could make it even more effective. Anne Lavack, dean of the business faculty at the University of Regina, Canada, says, “In Canada, we’re very good at giving people some courses of action and giving them encouragement that they can actually carry that out. We found that in other countries, like Australia for example, they’re very good at arousing fear and telling people how serious it is, but they don’t focus on giving them alternatives for action.”

1. Alcohol Creates New Realities – Switzerland


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This brilliant advert was published by RoadCross, which is an organization based in Zurich, Switzerland. The message is clear and striking without any unnecessary blood and gore. It offers insight into the muddled perceptions of drunk drivers when they’re behind the wheel.

Although some might question the impact of drunk driving campaigns like this one, they do make a difference. “Studies have been done in a number of countries that show when the campaigns are running that they have a positive impact on reducing the number of alcohol-related accidents and the number of alcohol-related automobile fatalities,” says Lavack. So with the proper strategy, carefully targeted messaging, and positive choices to positively influence behavior, lives can be spared.