As the former vice-president of marketing and communications for the Ottawa United Way and one-time press secretary for Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Eleanor McMahon has seen first-hand the power of targeted communications programs to change behaviour and attitudes.
McMahon is hoping for a similar outcome for her own organization, Share the Road Cycling Coalition. McMahon launched the Burlington, Ont. –based organization in 2008, two years after her husband, a former OPP officer, was struck and killed while riding his bicycle.
Share the Road today formally launched a province-wide awareness campaign, its first, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Canadian Automobile Association.
Toronto’s Top Drawer Creative provided all elements for the nearly $50,000 “Share the Road” campaign, which includes TV, radio, transit, resto-bar, print and online elements.
Companies including Corus, CBC, Rogers, Newad, Zoom Media, Pattison, Now, The Grid, Postmedia and Olive Media also donated an estimated $700,000 in media time and space.
“When you come up with a dream and have an intention to do something to make change and you have these willing partners, it’s really beyond gratifying,” said McMahon. “It’s beyond my expectations of what we would be able to achieve.”
The creative insight behind the campaign is that the majority of Ontarians are both cyclists and drivers, not one or the other, said McMahon.
The 30-second spot, for example, shows a motorist passing by cyclists identified as “devoted mother of three,” “responsible big brother and only son” and “loving father and husband.”
The dialogue-free spot then cuts to the image of a motorist pulling into the driveway who is identified as an “adored dad, driver…and cyclist” as he dons a bike helmet and goes riding with his young daughter. The accompanying super reads, “It moves us all. Let’s share the road.”
“We need to inject a human element, because from my perspective cycling can sometimes be a very polarizing conversation,” said McMahon. “We knew we needed to change that paradigm of ‘them versus us.’”
The adoption of a “comprehensive cycling safety public awareness and education strategy” was among the recommendations made by the Ontario coroner in its Cycling Death Review earlier this year.
The report, which reviewed 129 accidental cycling deaths occurring in Ontario between Jan. 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2010, found that males represented 86% of all fatalities, while more than half of all fatalities occurred in persons aged 45 and older.
The campaign comes during a peak period for cycling fatalities. According to the study, July, August and September accounted for a combined 46% of the fatalities examined in its report.