What makes a successful road safety ad?

12.00 | 11 July 2016 | | 2 comments

Researchers from Plymouth University are attempting to find out what makes an effective TV road safety advert and are asking road safety officers to help with the project.

The new study follows earlier behaviour change work by researchers at Plymouth University in areas including smoking and physical exercise.

Professor Jon May from the School of Psychology at Plymouth University, is asking road safety officers to encourage members of the public to participate in the online survey which involves watching a 30” advert and then answering questions about it.

Professor May said: “We want to test some of our ideas about the best ways to influence driving behaviour.

“We have had success in helping people to quit smoking, take more physical exercise and cut down on snacking between meals, and now want to know if the same approaches will work for road safety campaigns.”

Road safety advertising has developed over the years, from the ‘clunk-click every trip’ seat-belt campaign of the 1970s to the recent ‘But Alive’ drink-drive campaign from the DfT THINK! team which ran during the Euro 2016 tournament.

2014 saw the 50th anniversary of drink-drive adverts in the UK and research published by THINK! to mark the occasion highlighted a clear shift in attitude change.

In a survey conducted at the time, 91% of respondents agreed drink driving is unacceptable and 92% said they would feel ashamed if they were caught drinking and driving. By comparison, back in 1979 more than half of male drivers and nearly two thirds of young male drivers admitted drink driving on a weekly basis.

The Plymouth University online questionnaire will be open for two months and anyone who completes it will be entered into a draw to win one of five £20 Amazon vouchers.


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    Was it not John Wanamaker, US department store magnate who famously said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

    If the survey is answered like the opinion polls for the recent referendum then we may never know, but I applaud the effort for an answer.

    The British library in 2013 had an exhibition on Propaganda Power and Persuasion which had a user’s guide to basic techniques. Establish Authority, Exploit existing beliefs, Appeal to patriotism, Create fear, Use humour, Imply everyone agrees, Disguise the source, Hammer it home, Make the connections, Be selective about the truth and Establish a leadership cult. Eleven little paragraphs which we have all read recently re Brexit, Chilcot and any political debate. If you want a copy email me.

    Peter Wilson City of Westminster
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I’d be interested to know what others thought of the questions in the online survey which related to the ad. I found I wasn’t able to answer some of the questions myself, without using the words ‘It depends!’ which probably doesn’t help those who analyse the results. Possibly this is a failing of other surveys as well – or perhaps it was deliberate to see whether people will answer survey questions regardless.

    Hugh Jones, cheshire
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