MK 354 Spring 2010

February 22, 2010

Do the Test

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — morganhowell @ 11:13 am

In 2008, 716 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents in the US, and another 52,000 were injured. These are powerful statistics, but are they effective statistics? Do they get people to “Share the Road,” or “Give Three Feet,” as the Department of Transportation urges us? My guess is no. As the Heath Brothers explain in Made to Stick, “Statistics are rarely meaningful in and of themselves.” So how does one go about communicating the importance of watching for bikers in a way that will not only get people to listen, but also get them to alter their behavior?

The answer comes to us from London, England. In 2008 Transportation for London aired a very successful PSA. It opened on 8 basketball players, 4 in black and 4 in white. The announcer says, “This is an awareness test.” He then asks you to count how many passes the team in white makes. The players stop, and the announcer tells you the answer. He then asks the audience something unexpected (and the real awareness test): “Did you see the moon walking bear?” The clip rewinds, and clear as day, a man in a bear suit walks right across the screen while doing the moon walk. The PSA closes by saying that we often miss what we’re not looking for, and asks that we look out for cyclists. Watch it for yourself here:

What makes this an effective PSA is that it doesn’t mention statistics; instead it relies on the audience for credibility. It is simple, but with a twist: it challenges the audience’s intelligence, which earns the audience’s attention, and then gives a credible and concrete reason to look out for bikers. But it also makes you want to watch it again, to make sure that there really was a moon walking bear. Then it makes you want to show it to your friends, and then it makes everyone laugh. Since this video was posted on YouTube in March of 2008, it has received 8.2 million views. But more importantly, the campaign yielded results: this campaign, in conjunction with other campaigns to convince more people to use bicycles, has decreased the percentage of bicycle related fatalities and accidents in the UK, according to the UK Department for Transport and other organizations. And because of its viral success, it has undoubtedly affected bicyclists the world over.

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