MK 354 Spring 2010

February 28, 2010

Don’t Text and Drive, K?

Filed under: blog #5 — Tags: , , , , — Zach Cole @ 2:30 am

Sure, it seems like common sense to most of us: texting on your phone while driving is a bad decision. It causes car crashes, injuries and deaths. It is particularly dangerous for young, inexperienced drivers who are already more prone to car accidents than older generations. But texting is just so easy and convenient. And sometimes you just have to tell your bff that you cnt rlly talk, but ur on ur way.

So the question is, are those little everyday texts actually worth putting your life on the line? According to one particular British public service announcement, the answer is a resounding and horrific “no!” The video, which was rumored to have been banned from American airwaves due to graphic content, unfolds much like a short film. Three cheery girls are driving around, and just as the driver takes her eyes off the road to send a text message, she swerves into the next lane, crashing into a car coming the opposite direction. It doesn’t end there – the girls’ car is then blindsided by another oncoming car, sending all three into a hellish spin, complete with shards of glass, bloody foreheads and snapped necks. Her two friends die. The passengers of the other cars die.

Not only is this unexpected (few car crashes are depicted with such detail), but it is scary. The viewer fears allowing this sort of incident to ever occur and subconsciously vows to never text and drive. Chip and Dan Heath note that getting someone emotionally invested in an idea is a sure way to make the idea stick (167). However, the mere shock and fear factor of the car crash here is just the tip of the emotional iceberg.

One of the best ways to get someone emotionally attached to an idea is to speak to their interests. The viewer/listener must understand the benefits of the benefits that can be reaped from a particular idea (Heath, 179). In the case of the British PSA, marketers want teenage drivers to understand the benefits of the benefits of not texting while driving. They clearly express the idea that drivers who do not text while driving are far less likely to get into a car crash – that’s the immediate benefit. But what is the benefit of not getting in a car crash? The answers to this are obvious and plenty, but most importantly, the answers are poignantly detailed in the PSA. You won’t kill your friends if you don’t get in a car crash. You won’t kill a young child’s parents and baby sister if you don’t get in a car crash. The list goes on and on.

The marketers responsible for the PSA knew what they were doing when they tapped into the emotions of the audience. The viewer takes away an immediate sense of fear from this PSA. But thanks to the director’s keen understanding of emotional attachment to ideas, the viewer also takes away a sense of the benefits – all of them – that come from driving safely. That is why the images in this PSA are sticky and stay with the viewer long after the clip ends.

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