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Belt On, Phone Off: The NZ Transport Agency’s No-Bull Campaign

Each year, 1.25 million people worldwide die in road crashes—an average of 3,207 deaths a day, according to the World Health Organization. (In Canada, the numbers show that out of 160,000 car accidents each year, 2,800–2,900 result in deaths.) In addition, somewhere between 20 and 50 million people are injured, often seriously.

Of course, not all of the traffic deaths are related to a lack of seatbelt use. But in New Zealand, where 90 people a year die because they were not wearing a seatbelt, a “game-changing” awareness campaign has been produced by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Lesson 1: Seatbelt on

The Transport Agency and its advertising company, Clemenger BBDO, set out to tackle the problem with a public call to find real Kiwi men with their own stories of survival. Ten survivors who had been wearing their seatbelts when they were involved in a traffic accident were selected to participate. With the help of a doctor who specialized in emergency medicine and make-up artists, the team went to the men’s homes and re-created the way each of them looked after their accident.

Their injuries varied, but the 10 men were united by the mark of their seatbelt—a serious bruise or sometimes a scar—a forever reminder of the fact that putting on their seatbelt had been
the right choice.

The campaign, called Belt Up, has displayed posters of the men on billboards near bar and pub parking lots in the local towns where the men were living. Content showing their re-created injuries was also delivered across social media and in local cinemas. To give the campaign added meaning, all of those featured were young men—who make up the majority of fatalities on New Zealand roads. According to the press release about the campaign, the target was: “A tough, no-bullshit audience who have, in the past, seen seatbelts as an unnecessary accessory.”

“We’re selling an undesirable product to these guys,” suggests the NZ Transport Agency’s principal advisor for advertising, Rachel Price. “Research told us these young men think seatbelt messages are for kids, for the elderly, for everyone else. We had to work to make the undesirable something they wanted to buy.”

Lesson 2: Cellphone off

The campaign is still running, so its impact results are not in yet, but we are keen to find out if the Kiwis are going to take on distracted driving next. If their stats are anything like the 17 per cent increase in accidents related to distracted driving that we have seen here in Canada, they will be calling their creative agency back to craft another stinging call for action on distraction.

Caroline Tapp-McDougall, Publisher

Kiwis run visceral campaign encouraging seatbelt use

The “Belted Survivors” campaign from the New Zealand Transport Agency is aimed at men aged 20–40 years and features 10 young, real-life men who have survived crashes. One of these is Liam, who woke up from a coma the day before his daughter was born. Without a seatbelt, he would not have woken up at all.

Photographed at home with help from emergency specialist Dr. Tash McKay and a make-up team, the campaign has re-created the men’s actual injuries. Print adverts have been placed in each man’s home town, and social media has amplified the impact as others have shared their stories.

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