Media: Strategy Analysis - DfT alerts teenagers to road safety

Brand: Think! Teenage Road Safety Client: Department for Transport Brief: Make teens start to consider road safety as an issue relevant to them Target audience: UK teenagers aged 11 to 16 years old Budget: Less than £1 million AGENCIES Media: Carat Creative: Leo Burnett


Teenagers believe they are grown-up enough to cross the road: they know the Green Cross Code and do not need to be told what to do. However, traffic is, in fact, the biggest single cause of accidental death among 12- to 16-year-olds.

In 2004, 146 11- to 16-year-olds were killed as pedestrians and 2,940 were seriously injured, making 11- to 16-year-olds more at risk of being killed or seriously injured as pedestrians or cyclists than any other age group.

The key challenge was to encourage teenagers to attach as much importance to road safety as they do to friendships, exams, relationships, parents and drugs.

Qualitative research suggested the most emotive way into a teenager's world was through their friendship groups. This is where they feel safe and protected from the outside world, where they discuss the things that are relevant and important to them and where their opinions are formed. It is also where they are most at risk.

Research also suggested the best way to get road safety to resonate with this group was to demonstrate the impact a road accident could have on their lives and those of their friends. To stand out from the crowd of brands and voices shouting at this savvy teen audience, Carat needed to get teenagers to take ownership of and endorse this message themselves.

In an advertising first, ordinary teenagers were commissioned to make 30-second films on their mobile phones. The resulting footage featured the genuine road-side behaviour of a group of friends, which dramatised that failing to give the road your full attention can have tragic results.


- Online: Carat launched the film virally and completely unbranded, using a website set up to generate word of mouth (

This brand-free seeding through the internet allowed teens to spread the word virally and endorse its message without the stigma of government branding.

- Cinema: Once interest had been created via the unbranded seeding, Carat launched a Think!-branded version of the commercial in landmark teen releases such as Final Destination 3 and Doom.

- TV: The Think!-branded version moved on to teen-focused TV for the first episode of the new series of The X Factor and continued across channels such as Channel 4, E4, ITV2, ITV4, S4C, Sky and MTV.

- Posters: Hard-hitting six-sheet posters illustrating the effects of negligence to road safety were displayed near to schools and locations where groups of teens were likely to hang out together.

Think! was also the first advertiser to use youth club media, giving it access to urban council-run clubs.


It is too early to see any impact on the actual figures of dead and seriously injured teenagers for 2005, but the campaign generated huge amounts of free publicity. The film was covered in news stories on the TV and in newspapers.

The story also stimulated much debate in teen internet chatrooms and promoted crucial discussion about road safety issues.

On a very small spend, 59,000 people picked up the initial unbranded viral. However, within five days, 350,000 people had seen it (29 per cent of whom were teens).

This was eight times cheaper than a television campaign of equivalent reach, which would have lacked the unrivalled peer-to-peer endorsement.

THE VERDICT - James Jennings joint managing director, BJK&E

It has been one hell of a long time since I could describe myself as a teenager (despite my wife's occasional suggestions otherwise), but the issue of child road safety is a perennial one. The problem is making the mundane appear as dangerous as it really is, and then keeping it top of mind.

No-one likes to be told what to do, but this is true in spades for teenagers.

There is a real danger with government campaigns that the target group will feel they are being talked at and consequently ignore the advice.

Couple this with teenagers' belief in their own immortality and you have a recipe for, well, injury and death. Context, therefore, is even more crucial.

Carat and Leo Burnett's qualitative research reinforces one's natural assumptions, rather than providing any startling new insight, but is no less important for that. The key is being able to act on the information and it feels as though the agencies have managed to do this.

Executionally, the use of mobile and online media to provide both content and primary communication is spot on. The crucial thing with virals is to ensure there is a reason to view and pass on (the medium is most definitely NOT the message) and, more often than not, this is something that is funny/unusual/shocking.

The film certainly is shocking, without seeming too forced. The "real-life" setting of a mobile film does a good job of side-stepping the natural human filter we often apply to material that we know is set up to shock us and, on first viewing, there is no reason not to think the film is real.

The other elements of the campaign are logical, if slightly less inspirational.

I'm sure Carat would argue a significant number of relevant 11- to 14-year-olds get to see 15-rated films such as Doom (I always failed) and the use of TV, even selected channels and programmes, feels a little like a safety net. Equally, youth club advertising feels well targeted but more like public information and less peer-to-peer.

These are small quibbles, however. A larger - and perhaps a harsh one, given the budget and scale of the task - is to ask how this campaign will keep road safety top of 11- to 16-year-olds' minds. I suspect only time, many more campaigns and thousands more injuries will do that.

Score: 3 out of 5.