The most powerful “Don’t Drive Drunk” advertisement I’ve seen came from Australia. It was all over Facebook about 15 years ago and became an international campaign as a result. Once I’d seen this brilliant Australian ad I never again got in the driver’s seat after “a few too many” and it was finally the twelve-month alcohol-free challenge on the Australian website Hello Sunday Morning that helped me get to the point where I never have “a few too many” period.
The problem with the most effective drunk driving campaigns, however, is that they address the consequence of a problem without addressing the problem. This ad is a perfect example of that.
The ad begins with families, friends, work colleagues, and lovers celebrating, relaxing, and romancing with a few drinks. The scene is so natural and familiar that there isn’t any reason to question the behavior. At one point a young woman is offered drugs in a bar and turns them down. Illegal drug use is something that most of us don’t easily normalize the way we do drinking.
Having a few too many drinks is something that most adults can relate to.
Especially if it’s a party or if it’s been a hard day at work.
Especially if it’s a romantic date.
Many of us can even relate to that moment when your friend turns to you from the passenger seat and questions if you’ve had a few too many, and you question it yourself.
The sometimes horrifically violent unexpected result of driving after “a few too many” is so honestly shown in this ad that if you’ve seen it you will never forget. It will ingrain in your brain like a firebrand and even in a drunken blur, you’ll most likely remember to call a cab.
For the powerful message in this ad to have full effect you need to be relaxed and open when the cars start to smash into each other and people are brutally mangled. If drinking and getting a bit drunk were portrayed in the opening sequence as anything other than natural behavior those of us who enjoy drinking would quickly put up defenses.
The message that comes across is “ It’s normal, fun and relaxing to drink and get a bit drunk just DON’T do it and Drive ! “
What I learned while working through my twelve month sober challenge on the Hello Sunday Morning website is that I don’t need to drink to celebrate, relax and romance. It turns out that drinking actually dulls my senses to the point where I don’t really experience any of those joys fully.
Drinking dulls my senses to the point where I’m not really present in my life.
Sober my senses are alive.
If you drink regularly and have the tendency to binge it takes time to get to the point where you don’t feel like you need alcohol. Like the illegal drugs in the ad, alcohol is eventually addictive. It rewires your brain to associate everything good with a drink. At the end of the day rather than feeling relaxed simply because you’re home you need a drink to shut down. When you’re out with friends who you enjoy you only feel really involved if you have a drink in your hand.
It takes time without the drink in hand to get your brain rewired to the point where you feel the beauty of your life without it. But it takes a lot less time to get the wiring realigned than it took to get it screwed up in the first place .
It is terribly important that we not drink and drive but maybe it’s also time to think a bit about the way we drink. Maybe the message should not just be “Don’t Drive Drunk” but “Why Get Drunk?”
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