Distracted driving ad shows how quick disaster happens

Ontario government works with John St. to highlight the risk of texting at the wheel

Brenda Bouw June 20, 2016

The Ontario government has launched a new campaign hoping to shock drivers into better behaviour behind the wheel.

The “It happens fast” campaign, produced by John St., specifically targets people who text and drive, showing how quickly their lives can change when they take their eyes off the road for mere seconds.

The campaign includes a 15-second film showing a young man picking up the phone to check an incoming text when his vehicle is T-boned by a truck. The next shot shows him landing in a long-term care facility.

“You can’t sugar-coat this,” Stephen Jurisic, co-executive creative director at John St., told Marketing. “It had to be this hard hitting to be effective …  it felt right for what we were trying to say.”

He said the client, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, “wasn’t afraid to do something that would really shock people,” in particular the Millennial crowd that are heavy users of mobile technology.

Jurisic also said the campaign had to be compelling and smart, to motivate people to stop texting and driving. Smartphones are widely considered the most common distraction for drivers. People checking their phones while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision, versus a non-distracted driver, according to statistics from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, cited by Young Drivers of Canada.

The campaign idea was spurred by the response John St. says many drivers, especially younger ones, have when asked why they use their phones while driving, which is that “it’s only for a few seconds.”

Jurisic says they wanted to show that two seconds is all it takes to get into an accident that could change, or even end your life.

“There’s truth that it only takes a moment, it happens fast,” he says. “When that is in your head, we hope people will start to think about that when a text comes through, or an Instagram notice.”

The campaign, launched today (Thursday June 16) also includes a 30-second TV spot and a 60-second cinema spot, which John St. calls “the last truly captive audience marketers have.”

The campaign also includes a major buy on radio and Spotify, targeting different distracted driving behaviours, as well as a large social media push over the summer.

Jurisic says this is the main campaign for now, but that there could be a follow-up depending on its effectiveness.

“We’re really proud of it, and hope it changes peoples’ behaviour,” Jurisic says.