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Rebranding Drunk Driving
By: Jeff Louis
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If you've never driven under the influence of alcohol, you're too young to drive, a liar, or an extremely rare individual. According to Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's book "SuperFreakenomics," one out of every 140 miles in the United States is driven drunk. In 2008, an estimated 11,773 people died in drunk-driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 or greater. These deaths accounted for 31.6% percent of the nearly 38,000 traffic deaths in 2008. (Source: NHTSA, 2009) Yet, "we" continue to drive drunk. 

Drinking and driving is publicly stigmatized, yet it receives a quasi-acceptance among peers despite the statistics, the public organizations opposed to drinking and driving, and the media attention focused on public figures when they're caught (think Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton). Numerous movies, public-information films, and television shows cast a bad light on a terrible choice, yet Americans continue to get behind the wheel and drive drunk.

Public organizations, such as Mad Dads and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (M.A.D.D.), exist to stop drunk driving. Back in the day, driver's ed classes at your local high school ran films with the titles "You Drink, You Drive, You Die" and "Blood on the Highway." Even digital signs and billboards on America's highways warn us that drinking and driving is a losing proposition, often communicating the statistics caused by drunk drivers.

Advertising and public relations efforts have usually taken a "scared-straight" approach when it comes to campaigns aimed at drunk driving, but a new effort out of Canada puts driving under the influence in a different light: There's no blood, no sobbing parents, no smashed cars, and no empty spot at the dinner table. Instead, the four videos focus on what looks to be a late-night talk-show forum on PBS called "Stayin' on the Road."

The four spots feature Len, Andy,  Hal, and Rob, who teach us how to stay on the road while driving drunk. Lenny, one of the panelists, states that the secret to staying on the road is to never turn.

"My solution is pretty simple ... turning is the problem," he says. "Never turn. Go straight. Straight."

Even when approaching a bend, Rob's solution is to drive back roads and asks viewers to visit his Web site, DriveBackRoads.ca.

While the spots are controversial due to their humorous approach to drinking and driving, the message is what matters. Re-branding drunk driving as an act committed by idiots might hit home --especially when you see the men who are "professional" drunk drivers. 

Instead of "You Drink, You Drive, You Die," the re-branding effort states, "You drink, you drive, you're a jerk."



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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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