Don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex. And now a different approach.
For years, almost every public service ad campaign created to fight tobacco or drugs or teen sex took a pretty similar approach: the scare tactic.
“Here’s what you’ll look and sound like 30 years from now if you don’t stop smoking.”
“Picture yourself as a pregnant teenager; your life and future are basically over.”
“Do you want to do this to your brain? Well ingest illegal substances and you might as well fry your frontal lobe.”
However, there’s a lot of research that suggests most of this stuff doesn’t work. One approach that does work, we’re told, is real data. Tell students how much booze they and their friends actually consume when they party, show them comparisons of themselves to others, and they are far more likely to respond positively.
But there may also be another approach: positive deviance. It’s a technique that health care and social workers have started to practice in places around the world where they are outsiders. Rather than show up and tell people from another culture how they should behave, raise their children, nourish infants, they find someone from within the culture who’s doing things right and attempt to seed and spread that positive behavior. Celebrate what’s right rather than condemn what’s wrong.
Could a similar approach work in advertising? Might it be a new way to get people to avoid driving drunk or buzzed? Why not? At least that’s Mullen’s hope with this new spot. What do you think? Can positive deviance work?
From what I remember, the anti-meth ads in Montana did well. Great shock value.
But regarding this ad...I don't know. It seems as if it's targeted toward conscientious kids - kids who already may be leaning against drinking and driving and ad like this reminds them of that. So, as you wrote, if it saves one life it was worth it. And it may well do that as many kids can grasp what can happen with drinking and driving.
The kids that are hard core? Or just don't give a shit? I don't think it will have an effect. The gray haired actor, the Pope, the Dalai Lama are all fine to use, but the kids that are more concerned about the rebellious and fun part of getting drunk are looking to rebel and have fun. They're not concerned about the family whose life they spared.
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I totally agree with the concept. Trouble is, I just don't find this approach compelling enough. I live in a suburb outside of NYC and have a teenager. This just wouldn't resonate at all with the kids I know - or even the adults. Everyone nods sagely and agrees, but no one really applies it to themselves - especially not teens.
Hate to always go for shock value, but the first rule is to capture attention and this somehow misses the mark. I'm a big proponent of the 'Tell a Story' school. This is a great theme - needs a better story, IMO.
I think this approach is absolutely going to capture the attention of young people (I am assuming the target audience is Millennials?). It is slightly sarcastic, of course, but also taps into the feeling of hope and endless opportunity that young people have. It encourages them to rebel against the norm, and who doesn't love defying the status quo?
I would love to learn more about other positive deviance approaches and whether or not they were received well, as well as how successful this campaign turns out to be.
This is a refreshing approach to a very important theme, and for that Mullen should be applauded. I also think the UK PSA was effective because shock can be a wake up call. But as a mother of a teenager who's starting out on this journey, I can say this: no matter what, these are just ads.
That's all..just ads.
I'm not saying don't make them, but honestly, they are not really going to have any major impact.
Three things change teenagers' minds.
One: Friends..if their friends think it's important to appoint a designated driver, and they support that individual, there's a good chance they'll get home safely that night.
Two: Parents...if parents bring their children up to respect themselves and life, there's a very good chance they'll be responsible enough to know when to stop drinking, or at least call for a ride home.
Three... and last, if someone they know is involved in an accident...if tragedy becomes personal (and this is true for all of us), it's a very powerful tool.
So we should continue to make these ads, all kinds of ads, speeches, videos, whatever...at least teenagers can't say they weren't warned. But let's hope the environment, the family and the friends around these kids reinforce the message every day so they never forget, it only takes a second.
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Great comments. You are right. And in too many cases agencies and organizations make PSAs so they can feel better about themselves. But while it's only an ad, they're all only ads, perhaps it does help. If one or two of those "friends" you refer to celebrate or encourage or respect each other for good decisions, then maybe it prevents a mistake or even saves a life. Trust is key, I always tell my kids as they get closer to the age that if they are ever in that kind of situation, drunk or with friends who are they always have an out. Call. We even talk about secret codes so they avoid being embarrassed. As for your last example, let's hope that's not necessary.
Very effective. Instead of being preached to, I felt connected with the subject of the commercial. It's demonstrated time and time again throughout life that positive reinforcement is far more effective than negative, and I'd love to see more campaigns like this one.
That said, I thought Gene's comment was really interesting. Because people like the ones commenting here probably identify more with the subject of the commercial. The true test would be your target audience.
Please keep us up-to-date on how this is received! I'm really curious!
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This is not the kind of message that would appeal to me, but I've never been one who needed it. Perhaps it would have a good effect for those "on the border" of the wrong kind of behavior.
I do object to the phrase "positive deviance." Surely you could find and apply a more inspiring label?
The term is a scientific behavioral term. Does not imply that anyone *is* a deviant, but rather it's attempting to inspire behavior that *deviates* from the norm. It does sound odd, but I didn't invent it.
Thanks for your comment.
I like the idea, like the phrase, don't see it connecting with teenagers. All three of mine were bored, predicted the ending before it was half over.
Probably a little too professionally done, too clean, and too long to the punchline.
There was a song from the forties, sixty years ago, where the chorus went:
"You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative..."
'Positive deviance', 'accentuate the positive' - what's old is new again. But like a previous comment, if some teenager out there reflects a little on their drinking from this and doesn't drive buzzed, well done.
Appreciate knowing your kids were bored. Perhaps they've already learned not to drive buzzed. Let's hope so. Thanks for the comment and the reaction.
I like the whole "empowerment" idea you have created here. It is hard because I feel like campaign after campaign try to fight drinking and driving. Yet so many people are killed each year because of it. I have always felt the "you make the choice" type of ads are effective because you are handing the power over to the consumer (literally). However, by pushing it toward, "look at all these people who make the right choice, kudos..." you are encouraging good behavior. I think it will be interesting to see how this commercial is received.
"This American Life" has a long story about life at Penn State - the "#1 Party School".
They tried a social norm campaign without much success. Look for a live or streaming version this week or pay for download this week.
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When I was 15 years old, I was in an accident that occurred at 12:01am, New Year's Day. The driver of the other vehicle, a woman, drunk, T-Boned our vehicle going roughly 80mph. My friend 'Bud,' who had been driving, was killed instantly, and became Atlanta's first fatality of 1988. The other 3 passengers and myself suffered various critical and serious injuries: My friend Anne, sitting next to me, cannot bear children due to her pelvis fracture in 5 places. Anne's brother Frank suffered severe trauma to his heart (it popped through his rib cage). My friend Louis had to receive rods in his hand to help his fingers heal properly due being shattered so bad. I was lucky: I suffered a fractured pelvis, and some cuts and scrapes.
What's the point of a PSA? To get people to think about changing their behavior by assisting, abstaining, or simply recognizing the issue at hand.
We have no responsibility in advertising other than to sell products - that's what we do. We help sell. You can carve it up into a hundred techniques and philosophies, but our job is persuade people to buy.
I like this PSA. I like all PSA's. I like anything that tries to provoke thought and send a message.
I understand your post is to discuss if this ad is compelling and effective, and 'doing its job,' so be it.
I'm not sending this reply to discuss efficacy - I want to take the opportunity to deliver my own message and that message is: if you drink - either drunk or buzzed - and get behind the wheel of a car, you're a fucking idiot.
Amazing story. Thanks for sharing. I have to say, a real story, from a real person in his own words is more compelling than either this spot or the previous spots it replaces. Wish we could capture that in a way that didn't feel overproduced and polished.
I do like the idea of celebrating the positive.
Yet it might be a hard sell in these crazy times of
fame being rewarded to the Michaele and Tareq Salahis and the Jon & Kates of the world. . . times of call girls becoming columnists for the New York Post http://tiny.cc/fvN7R
I look forward to the time when one is rewarded for being a decent honest & hard working person again.
I applaud that you're not repeating what we all know doesn't work. Much better to be told what we CAN do than what we can't - it's what empowerment is really all about. Nicely done!
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UMass Amherst embraced this concept some time ago. All over campus you can see advertisements with statistics like "2 of 3 students have less than 3 drinks at a party" and "9 out of 10 students know how to have fun without alcohol". Most of us just laughed off the stats.
I wondered about its efficacy until I spoke with a public health official. It turns out, the ads were targeted at a small portion of the population - less than 10% - who may also laugh off the ads, but subconsciously register the message and change their own behavior to try and fit in.
Engineered peer pressure.
That's interesting, too. However there are influencers and cultural forces that always have to be part of audience if behavior is to change. Spots like this are only good if they accomplish both: change behavior or intended audience and also encourage external influences to support the idea.
I like the concept, but I think the interpretation misses. While I applaud the idea of modeling positive behaviors, I think most teens I know would view this video a bit as silly/condescending. Just me?
Well, just you matters, obviously. Anyway as they say about any and all of this stuff. If it does save a life or two, it's worth it.
I found the recent & well-known British PSA about driving and texting u00e2u0080u0094 http://bit.ly/4rtqzC u00e2u0080u0094 more compelling. I don't know the data on "positive deviance", or if there have been tests of its efficacy when used in ad media, but in any case, I thought this new PSA was just a bit slow in getting to the point. Sorry.
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I'd seen that but couldn't get past the first thirty seconds. First it's way too expected. Second it's a little overdone. And third it doesn't tell us anything we don't know. At least this spot reminds you of something that you don't think about. The PSA you refer to is right up there with the Plane Stupid spot for excessive shock value. If it really does work then kudos to it. I'm skeptical.
Edward, I don't know the full history of British PSAs on this topic, so perhaps its realism and shock value was more attention-getting over there than it would be here. Perhaps not. Perhaps it was targeting parents rather than teens. As for determining real effectiveness: that's a problem with most PSAs dealing with behavior modification. Maybe you could track the spot's persuasiveness by adding a toll-free number and URL at the end, offering a free booklet, "10 Ways to Say 'No' to a Drink."
Really cool approach!
I used to work on a lot of public service/social work campaigns in Bangladesh for people who had no access to TV or print, and a strategy we often adopted was celebrating local citizens who had adopted whatever we were working on at the time: immunizations, water hygiene, contraceptives, etc. It's always lovely to remember that everybody can be a hero given the right circumstances.
And positive reinforcement is always good. I know I would never have been able to quit smoking when I did had it not been for the encouragement from the right people!!!
Another cool thing about this idea is how extendable it is. I saw the ad and I couldn't help but think of all the narrative lines that flowed from the act of her sparing that family--what they would go on to do, how maybe one day Rachel's life would intersect with someone from that family, how we touch peoples' lives with every action, even when we don't realize it.
Glad to hear from someone with first hand knowledge and experience in the space. Perhaps it is worth extending, but maybe in another way: getting actual people to celebrate each other's efforts to avoid or overcome the tendency to drive while buzzed. Not sure if it would be too uncool to try that but why not? An easy social media thing to do.
I literally felt a bulb going on in my head when you said that! Plus, it goes for other things too. Like a cool way to appreciate people for their small considerations without falling into the greeting card trap. It would be a great community building idea, both online and off.
This could be a great experiment. Is there anyway that you can do a control to test the theory? Is there a larger program in place that will back up the original message?
You have plenty of Universities in the Boston area to use as a test. Find two similar campus and do a study on drinking behavior. Look to the NIH or RWJF to fund the study.
Using marketing/social media/influence techniques to improve health outcomes is a fascinating field to explore.
Who is the leader in the field?
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All good questions. I'd have to look into it more. But am sure there are behavioral experts who have answers.
The idea you set up -- embrace the good stuff before condemning the bad -- is interesting, but this spot is a total snore. Worse, while I get that good advertising should dramatize a truth, this spot is so over-dramatized that it rings false. But what do I know? I'm not the target.
Wait, I can't be that disconnected from the target, can I?
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Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. This stuff's always so objective. I actually think that most TV spots are a total snore in general. I thought this one came at it differently enough and surprised at the end. But glad that you have a strong opinion. Seen any in this category that you think worthy?
No, not much anti-sin advertising has appealed to me. Personally, I think drugs should be legal -- or at least decriminalized!
Wait, Down Under there was a campaign done that used actual cars from drink driving incidents. What was left of the cars was put up on billboards. I liked this approach, because it was concrete, credible and, I hope, convincing.
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