Think!, the government’s road safety initiative, has invoked the spirit of Jeff Bridges’ "The Dude" character from The Big Lebowski, in a surreal and humorous new campaign.
"The Road Whisperer", created by VMLY&R, portrays young and inexperienced drivers being visited by a phantasmic Jeff Bridges-style character with a Southern American drawl.
In a 30-second launch spot, released today, a nervous young driver sees The Road Whisperer in the back seat while he is tackling a country road. The driver is told to "ease up" on his speed because "country roads can be full of surprises".
The Road Whisperer is then seen carrying a ferret called Skippy who is, he says, "full of surprises too... he's a practising midwife!"
In a separate spot about the perils of driving at night, The Road Whisperer recalls that he was so nervous he had "a sphincter like a limpet" when he started driving at night.
To create the campaign, VMLY&R focused on situations where new drivers feel vulnerable or have the highest road casualties, including driving at night, on country roads and motorways.
The brief was also to create a character that did not come across as a distinctly authoritarian figure that would not be received well by young men.
Recent research commissioned by Think! found that 17- to 30-year-old male drivers often feel vulnerable on the road but still feel the need to appear confident in front of other people.
Instead, The Road Whisperer is supposed to be a sage-like character who has seen it all on the roads and can impart his wisdom in a humorous and non-confrontational manner.
Think!, part of the Department of Transport, will run the ads this month across cinema, video-on-demand and social media. The tips include driving on country roads, on motorways, at night, in light rain, on roundabouts, the importance of checking your tyres, and looking out for vulnerable road users.
The work was created by Sophie Taylor and George Robb at VMLY&R. The films were directed by Ali Ali through Sonny London, while Manning Gottlieb OMD handles media buying for the government.
Mark Roalfe, chairman at VMLY&R and creative director on the campaign, said: "We are very proud to have created a campaign that breaks through the pressure of male bravado and gives the audience a new way to think and talk about driving.
"Part spirit guide and part mad uncle, our Road Whisperer character teaches new drivers the ways of the road."