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Round Table: How a local campaign went global – Embrace Life

Round Table: How a local campaign went global – Embrace Life


The most successful social campaign from this winter is definitely the Embrace Life campaign from the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (SSRP). An road safety campaign without shocking images is pointing us to a new approach in communication.
The video already got more than 1.4 million views on YouTube. A fan made a group page on Facebook. And here on Osocio the pageviews are still coming in.
I got many questions about the campaign so I decided to do a co-creation interview with the help from our fans on Facebook and Linkedin.
Thanks Nedra, Tatjana, Reuben and Bas.

The man behind the campaign is Neil Hopkins, the Communications Manager from SSRP. Neil was very helpful with answering our questions.

The main question that many of us have is, who is the intended target audience? Is it “family men,” who are more likely to wear their seatbelts anyway, or is it younger men who are more at risk? Do they have any formative research they could share? Are they doing an outcome evaluation?

In the original creative brief, we specified that the advert should be appropriate to Sussex residents 25 – 50 years of age – i.e. that it shouldn’t cut out any section of the audience.  What is very interesting is that viewers are making their own minds up about the targeting – we have had a lot of people ask why we are targeting young men, why we’re targeting the older driver, why we’re targeting women. People are constructing their own narrative around the commercial and interacting with it in a significant way.

Research on seatbelt use is quite scarce in the UK, unfortunately. Anecdotally from member of Sussex Police (who stop people who drive without their seatbelts), it appears that males are more common in the stop-checks than females.
There are studies on the percentage of drivers who don’t wear a seatbelt, but very few which divide by gender that I can find.

We will be evaluating Embrace Life locally through face-to-face surveys, online polls and questionnaires etc. In the future, we will be monitoring casualty statistics to see if there has been a decline in the number of people killed and seriously injured through not wearing a seat belt.

Do You believe that you can also reach the other target groups? For example, the new drivers (from 17) or the young rebels (from 22) … Such young people are acting irresponsibly, they are not wearing the seatbelt but they step on the gas pedal.

According to YouTube figures (as for the beginning of last week), we were most popular with males in the 13-17 age bracket (I think that this is for adding the YouTube feed as a favourite). The statistics on YouTube are now showing that 45 – 54 is the age group most viewing the PSA.
Naturally YouTube will only be able to pick up the details of registered members, but it’s a rough guide.

Additionally, we have been linked to from a lot of car clubs / forums where the average age seems to be around 20 – and they seem to really engage with the PSA. We have also shown it at young driver workshops (17/18/19 years of age) and the reaction has been uniformly positive.

How are you measuring the success of the campaign? Are you able to monitor seatbelt wearing or accident rates over time?

We can monitor the number of people killed or seriously injured in Sussex over time, and how many of these injuries may have been exacerbated by not wearing a seatbelt.

The ad is beautiful and meaningful. But what about the artworks on walls in the streets of Brighton? Are these messages recognized by everyone? Why is the URL different from the campaign theme? I would have expected a more emotional message here too.

The artwork in Brighton was designed specifically to get people wondering what the campaign was about, and prompting them to visit the website.  I think that these have been quite successful, judging by the comments I’ve received recently while talking to people.  We will be asking individuals “how did you hear about the campaign” at a later date to judge the exact amount of traffic that the artwork has created.

The recognition is interesting – one person I spoke to had seen the first artworks created and visited the website (when the website just showed the logo and a countdown timer).  He then revisited the site later and saw the logo at the end of the PSA, which reawakened the recognition of the artworks.  He told me that he sees them everywhere now and they act as a reminder to the message of the campaign.

The URL is for two reasons:
1) We wanted people to embrace the campaign and to embrace the message – the ‘this’ is an instruction as to what they should embrace.
2) We couldn’t buy any useful variant of Embrace Life as they’d all been purchased already.

‘Embrace This’ also fitted with our direct mail campaign prior to the launch of Embrace Life, so it worked on a number of levels.

At the start of the campaign you tried to direct all traffic through the campaign website for tracking on the hits. Was that a decision because it is a local campaign?

At the start, we wanted to direct all of the traffic through so that we could monitor traffic, but also so that we could get more traffic to our own website ( – the film used to run through then auto-refresh to the SSRP website.  This was intended to increase our local awareness of the whole SSRP.

Was it meant to be local campaign?

Originally, yes. The creative brief stated that we wanted the PSA to run at shows/events, on our website, in training sessions etc, all within Sussex.

This is because we are limited by our geo-political boundaries and can only really develop something for use within our own borders in order to justify the spend.  We were all aware that the campaign might grow and become something bigger, but had to concentrate on our local market initially.

You are the communication manager. Was the campaign made under your responsibility or was it teamwork?

The campaign falls under my authority as I am indeed the Communications Manager, and I am listed as the Executive Producer on the film.  However, the initial concept was born from team work between my team, Daniel Cox (the Writer/Director) and Sarah Alexander (the Producer).

In terms of the advertising and marketing of the product, I have been solely responsible within my team and my organisation.

For the actual creative on the film, it was Daniel Cox who developed the idea and wrote the execution, which I was asked to sign off as Executive Producer.

At Osocio we noticed that your new approach is very successful. Can you tell what happened when the campaign gone worldwide?

Thank you!  After Osocio carried Embrace Life, it was suddenly picked up by a wide range of advertising industry websites (including Adland, AdGabber etc), and from there, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

One viewer set up a Facebook group dedicated to getting the PSA on broadcast TV channels, and this group currently has 2700+ members, which is what the end of the line should have said!

Did you received any negative reactions?

We have had a few negative reactions – some people didn’t understand the concept or connect emotionally with it, and a few prefer the hard hitting PSAs when you see death/injury in all of its graphic detail.

This is not unexpected – you can’t please all of the people all of the time!  And there is still a need for some of the more ‘violent’ creative to engage that audience segment which pays attention to that campaign style.

Do you have plans to come with a follow up?

We are currently looking at developing a resource to target high-speed offences on motorbikes.  We have an issue with sports bikes here in the UK, and a massive over-representation of motorcycle riders in the killed and seriously injured statistics.  We are therefore looking at how we can best target, access and influence this group.

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