What were they thinking?

This is not a joke – this is a real graphic from the SA Motor Accident Commission’s new marketing campaign aimed at discouraging young drivers from doing irresponsible things like speeding or drink-driving.

The core idea is life is very bad without the ability to drive. You might, for example, end up having to walk, use public transport, or – apparently the uncoolest thing imaginable – ride a bicycle!

This TV advertisement shows boys who cycle are an absolute turn-off so far as girls who drive are concerned.

And if you lose your license, you’ll really know you’re screwed if:

“you’re caught in an electrical storm, you’re halfway home and you’re on a bike”, or

“you keep catching your hot date staring at your helmet hair”, or

“the creepy guy on the bus has just made eye contact”, or

“after lining up for 10 minutes in the rain the drive thru girl says: sorry we don’t serve pedestrians”

Now perhaps the Motor Accident Commission’s research shows the prospect of cycling or using a bus is so horrendous for the target market that it is the most effective way of incentivising more responsible behaviour. Perhaps.

But even if that’s the case, it comes at the cost of demonising modes that have to play a much more important role in our cities both now and in the future. If the campaign is actually effective, it could be doing incalculable long-term damage to the way alternative modes are perceived.

I’d be surprised if the creative talent of Adelaide couldn’t come up with a campaign that achieves the responsible driving objective without undermining another important dimension of transport policy. However I’m not quite so confident about the judgement of politicians and bureacrats who would let this sort of message through!

16 Comments on “What were they thinking?”

  1. mdonnellan63 says:

    better yet, when they’re screwed you can treat them like crap when you see them on the road.

  2. Peter says:

    After my few days riding in Amsterdam this ad is embarrassingly provincial. I took a load of photos of the bike scene there and amongst them are plenty of young fellows dinking their girlfriends. But it was the same in the other places I went to, Copenhagen, Malmo, Stockholm and Umea. Its not thought of as a second-rate situation. My partner was in Umea also and even though we had access to a car every day there we still rode everywhere, even to dances in our good clothes! It felt also safer and there were no parking difficulties.

    Another thing bothers me about this ad. Surely the motor accident commission would want young people, the highest risk age group, to stay off the road by encouraging them to forgo driving for a while and use a bike.


    This one hasn’t been thought through at all. If you’re in a state that you’re waking up in a taxi, you were in no position to be driving anyway, licence or not.

    The whole campaign seems pretty bloody stupid. Although the scene of the guy climbing over his mum at the footy oval did make me chuckle.

  4. Craig says:

    Seems like a really stupid campaign, similar to that of General Motors in the US. They eventually had to retract their ads due to the backlash from cyclists.

  5. Oz says:

    It is unfortunate that the advocates for cycling in SA have not already commenced a political campaign to pull the add…

  6. Makes me so angry. Will write letters to
    -Bicycle SA
    – SA Motor Accident Commission
    – SA government
    – organisation that allows adds to be aired
    advice ???

  7. Michael says:

    Well, advertising agencies are renowned for their high moral standards……and wouldn’t touch anything socially destructive like gambling, alcohol, cigarettes, etc

  8. Adam says:

    It will be hugely ineffective. Cycling is cool hip and trendy just look how many young well dressed young people cruise around melbourne on their vintage bikes .
    Its almost a parody of itself, highlighting why it’s ok to lose your license.
    I take this message from it:
    It’s ok to speed because If I lose my license I can buy a trendy bike and gain street cred.
    Is it a joke?

  9. foodieonabike says:

    I reckon Adam is right, whoever approved that campaign is out of touch and should retire – soon.

    This idea is a good response – http://www.cafepress.com.au/copenhagenchic.457564562

  10. Peter Parker says:

    I would have thought that high profile advertising would be previewed by the minister and would not go ahead without his approval. SA’s minister for Road Safety is Tom Kenyon. So the buck stops with him. foodieonabike – he’s 39, so is a fair way off retirement.

    The minister opened the 2011 Australasian Transport Research Forum last month. He stressed the importance of evidence – based research and seemed a reasonable guy. In addition he paid tribute to Victoria’s record on road safety and suggested that SA could learn a lot from TAC in Victoria. But this campaign looks like an original – which might not work (though maybe they’re targeting country youth, in which case ‘no car – you’re screwed’ may not be unreasonable.

  11. […] Melbourne Urbanist on more bikes are for creeps and losers crap. See also the discussion kicked-off by Richard […]

  12. Jon Lowe says:

    “you’re caught in an electrical storm, you’re halfway home and you’re on a bike”
    – I always took lightning as a reason to get faster 😀

    And I LIKE rain, Riding home in the rain makes me smile.

  13. Chris says:

    This is a pisser… Honestly…

    It’s obvious that most of the “outraged” respondents to this article have been riding without a seat!
    Remove the seat tube from your anal sphincter and lighten up…

    I’m guessing the acceptable campaign would involved a bunch of MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) poncing about at a cafe drinking skinny lates while they share stories about their income and assets… The tag line could be “Lose your licence and there’s a chance you’ll meet up with these tools!”

    If your blood pressure is rising and you’re feeling the need to write a long winded letter to your local MP, then it’s obvious that you’re not the demographic that this campaign is targeting. Perhaps you need to have a sit in you Jason recliner and have a cup of warm Bonnox to settle your temper.

    FYI: I’m a road cyclist, 41 years old, 2012 Giant TCR, averaging over 800km per month.
    I still know how to laugh and not be a sanctimonious twat.

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