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Timeless traffic safety: vintage poster ads

June 13, 2013

About 75 years ago the Works Progress Administration (WPA) developed the Federal Art Project (1935-1943) to employ out-of-work artists as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program to help the U.S. recover from the Great Depression. The artists created various artwork for public buildings, tourism, health, safety and events. The collection includes several posters with traffic safety topics with messages that are still relevant today.

Drunk driving, Robert Lachenmann, 1937

Pedestrian safety, Isadore Posoff, 1937

ImageSafe driving, 1943
(see the stoplight?)

ImageSpeeding, Iowa State Safety Council, 1940

ImageStreet safety, Miguel A. Rodrídguez, 1942

I was surprised to see that they commissioned posters in Spanish, too! The Library of Congress has many of the Work Projects Administration posters digitally archived here.

Royal Society of the Prevention of Accidents in the United Kingdom also has a nice vintage traffic safety series created by artist Roland Davies in the 1960s, covering passing, bicycle and bus safety messages.

Image        Image



“Tired faces” promote pedestrian safety

May 13, 2013

In the past year I have learned so much about pedestrian safety. I’ve worked on several safety topics over the last decade (drunk driving, distracted driving, safety belts, speeding), and pedestrian safety is definitely the most challenging. People often discount it as an elementary, look-both-ways “pedestrian” topic that isn’t relevant to their lives. But stats show that pedestrian safety is a critical issue for drivers and pedestrians. From a communication standpoint, there multiple audiences with a myriad of differing messages with no single point of decision, which makes it a wee bit complicated.

This campaign, created for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’  Street Smart program, was designed to capture attention, illustrate the vulnerability of the human body when flesh meets steel, and give specific calls to action. Here are the resulting ads.


Street Smart _BodyShop



Fundraising & (Video) Gamification

October 3, 2012

Gamification is the use of game design dynamics and mechanics to solve problems and engage people involved in non-game activities. This type of strategy lends itself to communities, and has become more popular in marketing with social networking platforms. For fundraising, the most widespread gamification tactic is the classic donation “thermometer”, a visual representation of the overall goal and illustrates progress the community is making to reach that goal.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to the Art of Video Games exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. At the entrance to the exhibit this installation caught my eye.

The installation incorporates several gamification qualities (appropriate for a video game exhibit, no?):

Entertainment: The display isn’t just a plea for funds, it’s a fun experience that plays off the exhibit itself. The installation is also graphically relevant to the topic as well.

Incentive/Rewards: This installation also plays to instant gratification. If you donate, you see your name on the wall in (almost) real time. It’s simple and on a small scale, but it allows the donor to participate within a group with common interests and actually become a part of the exibit itself. Donors also are entered to win monthly prizes.

Competition/Status: Leaderboards are one way to give the audience a platform to compete with each other. This scrolling “leaderboard,” inspired by the “High Score” screen of video games, showcases the donors’ names. The larger the donation, the bigger the name.

Game theory and gamification tactics fascinate me, and I’ll be looking for other examples in fundraising and social marketing to share. I’ve long preached that the need to understand incentives (and barriers) is critical to promote interactivity within digital media. Always ask yourself (or your team) “why would a user want to take this action?” Gamification answers this question with entertainment, challenges that give a sense of accomplishment, competition within a community, and rewards. I wager that gamification in marketing will continue to grow since it’s rooted in psychology and naturally builds in measureable results.

At any rate, this is fun and relevant fundraising for a video game exhibit!

Poetry in Motion: Street Safety Haikus

September 26, 2012

haikus are so fun
too abstract for ads. PR?
either way, I smile

If you know me personally, you may know that I have a deep-seeded love for both haikus and puns. This effort combines both of these, so I guess I must be their target audience! “Curbside Haiku,” a safety education and public art campaign launched by New York DOT last fall, features street-sign-inspired art with safety-themed haikus. From a public art perspective, I love these. But from a social marketing perspective, I think they may be too indirect to be impactful (pun intended) and behavior-changing.

BUT they are fun to read! ¡Y Español tambien!

I’ve been doing a lot of research on pedestrian and bicycle safety lately, and it’s complicated issue. I would actually venture to say that it’s one of the most challenging traffic safety issues, maybe even beating out distracted driving (though they are related). Buckling up and driving sober are behaviors that ultimately have one major point of decision, whereas pedestrian/bicycle safety incorporates MANY behaviors throughout the person’s journey. AND there are multiple target audiences (drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists), which increases the complexity even more. Low-literacy groups are even-more at risk, so it’s critical to be very clear and direct in advertisements.

On the other hand, this project takes new life as a PR effort. Framed as art installations in collaboration with local writer and artist John Morse, it becomes a quirky news story. The creative effort also has a high factor of sharability online, gaining some traction on social media, the poetic street signs have been featured in BuzzFeed and Huffington Post. It gets people talking about pedestrian safety, which isn’t an easy task.

What I want to know is if I can get one on a t-shirt! Learn more about Curbside Haikus here.

Can a Magic Mirror Deter Drunk Driving?

August 17, 2012

WARNING: Objects in mirror may be drunker than they appear (or vice versa).

Ogilvy Brazil, the agency that brought us the $73,000 Bar Tab and Drunk Valets has launched a innovative new drunk-driving-prevention effort dubbed the Drunk Mirror. Their previous street-level marketing incorporates candid-camera style escapades that target drinkers in and around bars. Their previous work focused on the costs and consequences of drunk driving, but this stunt dove a little deeper to educate drinkers on the effects of alcohol. “Impaired driving” is the pervading phrase in the traffic safety biz, but the target audience doesn’t use this terminology, and there’s evidence that they have little idea of what impairment really means.

The agency installed a “magic” mirror that used a digital camera to present a delayed reflection of the person looking into it. The experience mimicks the effect alcohol has on a person’s reflexes after drinking. Then the mirror reveals the message “This is how slow your reflexes are after only a few drinks. One advice: Don’t drink and drive.”

This attention-grabbing installation at the very least produced some buzz about buzzed driving, both in the bar and online.

LIKE: Organ donors share life on Facebook

May 2, 2012

Yesterday Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg announced the launch of a new Facebook tool that allows users to share their organ donor status directly on their timeline. The tool has seamless integration with organ donor databases and other resources to learn more about the organ donor crisis. And although Facebook is using PR and other tactics to promote this tool for organ donor registration, this functionality can be used to promote other public health campaigns as well.

Facebook’s motivation for their efforts:

Today, more than 114,000 people in the United States, and millions more around the globe, are waiting for the heart, kidney or liver transplant that will save their lives. Many of those people – an average of 18 people per day – will die waiting, because there simply aren’t enough organ donors to meet the need. Medical experts believe that broader awareness about organ donation could go a long way toward solving this crisis. And we believe that by simply telling people that you’re an organ donor, the power of sharing and connection can play an important role.

Major props to Facebook for doing this! Here’s how it works.

Facebook Organ Donor Status InstructionsTo get started, go to your personal Facebook Timeline and click on Life Event. After choosing the Health and Wellness category, click on “Organ Donor…”

ImageFill in the when, where and why (you can even include a link in the description to encourage friends to learn more). If you’re not registered, you’ll find a link to find your official donor registry there as well.

Facebook Organ Donation Timeline Update Once saved, the story will publish in your timeline and your friends’ newsfeeds. The timeline event even has a “Learn more” button that leads to the Donate Life Facebook page.

There are additional “Life Events” options that can be used to harness peer pressure for other public health and social marketing campaigns campaigns. Users can add milestones to share when they quit smoking, lost weight, overcame an illness, and many more. It’s just too bad you can’t use the current functionality to document future goals. Facebookers could leverage their social network for support and accountability for smoking cessation, healthy eating, or exercise goals (I know there are current Facebook apps out there that already do this, but it would streamline the process). Maybe Facebook Timeline 2.0?

UPDATE: Just after a day, Facebook is seeing amazing results. “As of Tuesday night, over 100,000 people had shared their status as organ donors on Facebook, and by Wednesday morning nearly 18,000 people had clicked through from Facebook page into their state registry, indicating they were taking the next step to actually become donors.” Many states are seeing astronomical increases in registrations and volunteers.