Skip to main content
Responsible Marketing

Are we giving PSA’s a pass?

By August 31, 2009August 19th, 20205 Comments

By now, you’ve probably seen or heard about the following PSA warning of the dangers of texting while driving produced by the Gwent Police Department in the UK.

View video on YouTube

The nearly unbearable gritty realism of a head-on collision features heads snapping back and forth on impact, gushing blood, a child crying for its dead parents and a dead infant has created controversy, and as expected—conversation.

  • The argument against: It’s simply too explicit.
  • The argument for: Desensitized youth will actually pay attention.

There’s merit to both points, but seeing this video made me wonder, “If this wasn’t a PSA—if this was an ad for child seats, OnStar or another product—what would the conversation look like?”

Are we more accepting of questionable content in PSA’s because it’s for the common good and not for profit?

Should we be?

What do you think?

Comment below to weigh in.


Subscribe to this feed.

. . .
Thanks to Deston Nokes and Martin Pierce for sharing this video with me last week.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Craig Marker says:

    Yes – it is warranted. There’s nothing to gain or profit from here. It’s about safety – period. There’s plenty of statistics to support this level of “advertising.”

  • I agree with Craig. The consequences of many activities we all exhibit are seldom considered; the results of texting while driving can have some horrific results which have been well documented in the video. If this helps kids recognize the danger of texting while driving, then the ends justify the means.

  • Perrine says:

    I wonder whether the PSA will effectively reach its goals (raising awareness – changing driving behaviors) with such high-degree of realism.

    Isn’t there a risk of trivializing violence and drama, which is already done through the great diversity of movies, video games, news to which we come across everyday (especially the youth) and to be we become desensitized??

    Furthermore, I also believe that such violent themes and PSAs can be very counterproductive, as fear/violence is generally an ineffective tool for motivating genuine personal engagement, and the public might still think i.e. “It only happen to the others, not me”.

    I am French, and it is true that there has been a long debate in France about whether very graphic PSAs like the ones used in the UK would be more efficient traditional ones we often use.

    In the end, I think the “texting while driving” PSA might reach its targeted public not because of its inner message, but because of the online buzz and controversy created around it within few days…


  • Pat says:

    This type of PSA is not effective. Years ago I worked with the U.S. military on its drug-abuse programs; annual attendance at the one-day program was mandatory.

    The standard program was a large-audience presentation followed by Q&A. The presentation consisted of simplistic visuals like showing a multitude of drugs and saying “these are bad for you,” followed by supporting cases.

    Boring, plus no one was about to speak out in the Q&A in a manner that might disclose their own drug use and possibly lead to an investigation and dishonorable discharge. More important, the program did not change behavior. If anything, it was mocked and ridiculed by attendees.

    Our new program instead focused on the reasons why people use drugs (e.g., peer pressure, boredom), and whether the current solutions (e.g., laws, needle exchange programs) addressed the reasons. The format was group discussion, with breakouts into small groups and reporting back to the larger group. The entire group then brainstormed solutions that addressed the reasons.

    The program was successful (as measured by attendee feedback on their levels of interest, learning, and behavioral intentions). It was adopted throughout that branch of the service.

    Negative scare tactics such as the anti-text-while-driving PSA don’t work. Contrast it with the more successful campaign to appoint a designated driver when the group goes out drinking. That recognizes the reality of over-drinking and subsequent accidents, and focuses on the positive steps one can take. Dare I say, the “responsible” approach.

Leave a Reply

Outmark chicken

Get our top 7 keys to success

Should I outsource my marketing (and how does it work)?

Rather just chat?

Schedule a free initial consultation