Drunk Driving Problems in New Zealand

In New Zealand in 2000 drink driving caused 23% of fatal car crashes. The Land Transport Safety Authority has been trying to reduce deaths and injuries as a result of drink driving by advertising in a range of media. For my research assignment I decided to investigate the proposition that the language and visual features in drink driving advertising are used to promote memorability and impact. I decided to focus on print advertisement and starting collecting advertisements from the Herald, AA Directions magazine and The Listener as well as a number of other sources where I found advertisements.

I collected over 15 advertisements and noted 3 billboards. I also visited the LTSA web site and researched the strategy behind the campaign. I went through and analysed each for written and visual techniques. I looked at what techniques were most often used to appeal to readers and to encourage their compliance.

Drink driving advertisements are typically direct messages that link to dominant images. Sometimes the images show the direct effects of drink driving but more often they show something more subtle; old injuries, pictures of a prison or prison cell or a coffin for example. The LTSA use what is known as the Victorian advertising model in drink driving advertisements where they use a successful strategy as employed by the state of Victoria in Australia. They employ several strategies to get their message across. They frequently use emotion and shock in a way that leaves drivers thinking “it could happen to me.”

One example from a Women’s Weekly has an advertisement with a story with emotive and direct phrases in simple sentences such as “I killed my husband” and “my own daughters won’t even talk to me.” This use of syntax adds to the direct message. Further use of direct communication is evidenced in the use of imperatives, as in “don’t drink and drive” and “catch a taxi” (Metro, North and South). This makes it seem urgent and doesn’t leave the reader another option. Another language feature used is capitalisation, with the headlines in all advertisements being in all capital letters. For example the billboard “DRINK DRIVE, ONE MORE BRO FOR THE ROAD.” This again gives more impact to the reader and makes the message stand out more.

The advertising is also designed to engage people’s core fears and vulnerabilities and to be memorable. A common feature is alliteration. The phrase ‘drink then drive’ is used extensively in advertisements from such sources as billboards, The Herald, Women’s Weekly and The Listener. Alliteration is also used in the headline “Cosy Concrete Charmer” (Property Press). This alliteration is used to aid memorability with readers to help them retain the message. Collocation words are placed in regular patterns to aid familiarity and memorability, for example “Drink drive” and “bloody idiot”. Through the campaign these words have been used together incessantly to promote the message.

Puns are also used, for example “one more bro for the road” refers to having one more drink before driving off and one more dead friend on the road. This method is used to connect the two ideas of drink driving and dying while being memorable and being colloquial in nature to relate to the readers. This is further evidenced by the use of written and visual features to parody real estate advertising. In the real estate weekly Property Press a picture of a prison is shown from a helicopter in the style of a property advertisement with comments along side stating: “Good security, plenty of time to think, shared shower facilities.” By this interplay the reader is made to fear the effects of drink driving. It is described in the style of real estate advertisements to fit in with those around it and become unexpected.

In summary a range of methods are used by the LTSA in advertising focus on directness and memorability of message through emotion. In this way they hope to reach people to stop them drink driving. This form of advertising has been effective with independent reviewers on the LTSA web site reporting a saving of over 100 lives as a result of the advertisements and a reduction in drink drive fatalities of almost 50%.

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