Opinion: Beale on ... TfL

For even tailback-hardened motorists, Hammersmith roundabout is a real teeth-gritter. There's the steady convoy of eager bus drivers for whom the Hammersmith depot represents pee-and-tea nirvana, the weaving out-of-towners numbed by the three-lane Russian roulette, the inevitable necklace of red lights.

Drivers must also contend with the determined swarm of hunter-commuters charging between Tube stations on opposite sides of the road and distracted kids from Hammersmith's knot of schools. So the glint of a green light and a momentarily open lane seem to release pent-up frustrations and decisive impulses - and Hammersmith pedestrian beware. In the six or so years that I've worked in Hammersmith, I've seen three blanket cases on the roundabout: three pedestrians killed. At least one of them was a young girlfrom a local school.

Apparently, 717 young people were involved in pedestrian road accidents in London last year, and 13 children were killed. The Government has set targets to reduce child fatalities and serious injuries by 50 per cent by 2010. There's a long way to go, and with more children out on the streets in the warmer weather and half-term approaching, Transport for London has kicked off a new campaign through M&C Saatchi to tackle the problem.

The campaign is part of a wide-ranging initiative - in schools and through the media - to educate on road safety. And the radio ad has just won the latest Aerials Award (page 7).

The TV work is required to be deeply unsettling while respecting teenage sensibilities and sensitivities. But first it must engage.It's a cliche of youth marketing that children will only listen if you talk their language and, crucially, signal that you know they know that you're trying to sell them something. Which is challenging enough if you're trying to sell them something they might actually want to buy. Selling them on a message that's "for their own good" is like trying to market double maths as an aspirational leisure pursuit.

But this is a clever ad. M&C Saatchi has gone for a camouflage strategy, employing all the subterfuge of a wrangling teenager trying to extract an increase in their allowance. It takes the guise of a deliciously tacky docu-soap. The ad opens in the Hollywood home of got-lucky celebrity Sarah Rivers, discovered by a talent spotter while out shopping and whisked off to LA for the "Big Time". She's an irritatingly chirpy minx, all white teeth and healthy glow, and just as you're thinking "what a jammy little bitch" there's a 'flashback' to her stepping in front of a car and getting run over. "Don't die before you've lived" is the strapline.

The accident gets you right in the guts, a sharp U-turn that takes your breath away. A quick poll of my sofa revealed some people are likely to flick channels before the denouement, thinking this is just another trailer for a reality TV show. But I reckon the set-up will hold the attention of the target audience. The actress does a fine job of being your average teenager who can't quite believe her luck and girls, at least, are sure to empathise. The reveal is handled a little too baldly (you don't quite realise it's the same girl, and that this is a "flashback" to reality) but if that's an excuse to watch it more carefully next time, all the better.

If the ad is as effective as it promises to be, next year's statistics will make for less gut-wrenching reading. But this is one of those campaigns that deserves a bigger budget (currently £1.25 million) and constant refreshing.

Whoever is mayor after 10 June, take note.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Well, hopefully it will deserve an award for


File under ... P for powerful.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Does TfL take Amex. I want to make

a donation to the campaign."

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