Authenticity, technology and safety: Connecting with youth about drug-impaired driving

How do you convince 16 to 24-year-olds to make safer choices about something they don’t necessarily consider dangerous in the first place?

That’s the challenge Public Safety Canada (PSC) faced as it prepared to launch its first drug-impaired driving (DID) campaign targeting young Canadians. Our solution: make youth the focus of every decision and execution.

Here’s how it all came together.

The onset of a national discussion

With perceptions shifting across the country and around the world, the Government of Canada (GoC) recently committed to legalize, regulate and restrict access to cannabis. Legislation was also introduced to strengthen impaired driving laws and help ensure the public is better protected.

According to the Baseline Survey on Awareness, Knowledge and Behaviour Associated with Recreational Use of Marijuana conducted by EKOS, 27 percent of drivers who have used cannabis have driven a vehicle under the influence (42 percent among recent users) and 35 percent of people surveyed have been a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone under the influence (70 percent among recent users).

Working with other departments, PSC was identified as the federal focal point for the coordination of DID communications activities. To this end, the organization contracted Banfield to help with a planned multi-year public education and awareness campaign, including partnerships with key stakeholders, public communications and outreach, and paid media.

Our first efforts together, aimed at Canadian youth, hit the English and French markets nationally in December 2017.

Making a lasting impact in an instant

With growing media coverage on high driving, and intense competition for our target’s attention, we needed a creative approach that would cut through the noise and make the topic feel real and urgent.

Collaborating closely with the PSC team, we developed the In an Instant concept, which contrasts the technology-augmented world of our young audience with the immediate consequences of DID.

The centerpiece of the campaign was a 30-seconds television spot telling the story of a group of friends on a car trip through the social media posts of a female passenger whose boyfriend is high at the wheel — ending with a violent accident as the girl is recording herself with cute video filters.

“It was important to us to create a striking visual that would catch audiences by surprise and really stick in their minds,” said Banfield President and Creative Director Timothy Jones. “That’s how we arrived at the almost surreal idea of the selfie crash, and every other execution grew from that naturally afterwards.”


A mix that includes the GoC’s first chatbot

Supported by a media strategy from Cossette Media, the In an Instant campaign was unmissable. Between broadcast, cinema and YouTube spots, an in-app mobile game, Spotify radio ads, social media content, on-campus advertising, a partner toolkit, a dedicated landing page and more, our message lived everywhere our audience did.

To extend our reach beyond traditional platforms, we also created a Facebook-based chatbot that engaged young people in a friendly and helpful way. Named Didi as a play on the DID acronym, the GoC’s first ever chatbot tested users’ knowledge of high driving with a quiz, provided links to other relevant resources and even helped them find a ride home if they needed one.

Phase one of a multi-year vision

Overall, the bilingual cause marketing initiative was instrumental in sparking a national conversation about drug-impaired driving and showing the next generation of Canadian drivers how quickly their lives can change if they put themselves at risk.

“This is an important campaign with the potential to save many lives,” said Colette Cibula, Director, Corporate Communications and Marketing at Public Safety Canada. “We are very pleased to be on this journey with Banfield — [their] talented team has been creative, energetic and ever-professional.”

We’re very proud of the work we produced with PSC, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to expand on it going forward. Our approach may have focused on grabbing attention “in an instant”, but our vision for the change we can create together is definitely on a much longer scale.

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