IDEOLOGY & PURPOSE
“Stop the texts, stop the wrecks.” Although the solution to terminating car accidents may not actually be this simple, the Ad Council has taken it upon themselves to try to limit the accidents that do stem from texting. The campaign that the Ad Council currently runs is a tricky one. They have previously concluded that over ninety percent of Americans understands texting and driving is dangerous, but people do not seem to care. There is a disconnect between awareness and behavior and that is what this propaganda campaign is pinpointed at. The goal is to drive home the fact that no one is invulnerable from the dangerous of texting and driving. If the Ad Council can convince drivers to make smarter decisions behind the wheel, the result would be less car accidents and safer roads to travel on.
CONTEXT OF PROPOGANDA
This propaganda campaign runs at a time when distracted driving is becoming a major problem in the United States. Over 2.5 million people are part of accidents every year and sixty-four percent of these involve cell phones. That makes 1.6 million people involved in accidents involving a cell phone every year. Now there are only 318.9 million people in the United States to begin with, so that actually makes up a scary percent of people.
This propaganda campaign comes at a time when laws have already been put in place to ban texting and driving. Forty-six states in the United States have already banned text messaging for all drivers. Although this is a great step, it is considered a secondary offense in most cases, which means that an officer cannot pull a driver over just for texting while driving.
IDENTIFICATION OF PROPOGANDIST
The aforementioned, “Ad Council”, is the driving force behind the texting and driving campaign and many others across America. Since 1942 they have made it their mission to produce, distribute and promote campaigns that improve everyday life. The non-profit organization uses volunteer talent and donations to produce advertisements and advertising space. In 2015 they secured over $1.6 billion in donated media between all of their campaigns. The texting and driving campaign was in fact included in that number.
Back in 1943 the Advertising Council changed its name to The War Advertising Council. Their focus at that time had become trying to gain support towards the war effort. This included things like encouraging enlistment, purchasing war bonds, and conserving war materials. However, before World War II ended, president Franklin D. Roosevelt actually requested the Ad Council continue its work even during peace. Every president since has supported the organization.
STRUCTURE OF PROPOGANDA ORGANIZATION
The Ad Council is made up of a Board of Directors and an executive and senior staff. The president and chief executive officer is Lisa Sherman. Among those on the board of directors are representatives from Google, AT&T, Twitter, Apple, and many more.
Below the Board of Directors are seven different committees. The Advisory, Campaign Review, Research, Social Impact, TV Steering, UX Advisory, and xtraLeadership committees all serve important purposes for the Ad Council. Each committee is made up of leaders in their field and they help to shape the direction of the Ad Councils work.
Lastly, as part of this propaganda campaign, the Ad Council organization has partnered with “Project Yellow Light”. The project is a scholarship competition in memory of a sixteen-year old boy that died in a texting and driving accident. Students can submit videos that the Ad Council then potentially edits into commercials. The video below is an example of a video that came through the Project Yellow Light competition.
Just like the video above, the target audience for the majority of this campaign is teenagers and young adults. The specific group that is listed on the Ad Council website as what the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign is targeting says drivers ages sixteen to thirty-four. There are statistics to back up the reasoning for targeting this group. While ten percent of adults admit to having full text message conversations while driving, twenty percent of teens admit to doing the same thing while driving. A study at the University of Utah also found that the reaction time for a teen using a cell phone is the same as that of a seventy-year old who is not using one. Finally, it was also found that while drivers in their twenties make up twenty-three percent of drivers in all fatal crashes. However, the same drivers make up thirty-eight percent of all fatal crashes in which they were using cell phones.
Just like many other advocates for change are realizing, that typically has to start with the millennials. Not only do they make up a large portion of the problem in this particular case, but they are the group that can carry on good practices and eradicate bad ones in any case. By focusing attention on these drivers, the Ad Council and the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign, hope to put an end to texting and driving.
MEDIA UTILIZATION TECHNIQUES
Because of the amount of resources that the Ad Council has at its disposal, the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign can run their propaganda on a variety of different media platforms. They do run television advertisements as well as radio spots that compliment billboards that can be seen on the sides of busy roadways. There is obviously one advantage to the radio and billboard advertisements in the sense that the consumer of the information may be in a situation where they could be tempted to text and drive at that very moment. There is no better time to plant that voice in your head then when you are driving.
This is an example of a billboard that you might see as you are driving. What I particularly like about this piece of propaganda is that it makes you think. It immediately grabs your attention but you can’t just send it in one ear and out the other. You have to process the statement and come to the conclusion that texting and driving really isn’t benefiting anyone. I also like the fact that it is only eight words. When you are driving you can easily look up and glance at the sign and read it. If it would be longer many drivers would probably not take the time.
This is an example of how the Ad Council utilizes the television as part of their propaganda campaign for texting and driving. They focus in on “Todd”, which the speaker affirms is a great guy and even a “sweetheart”. However, all of his “Todd like” characteristics are brought into question when his cell phone buzzes while he is driving. The commercial puts the Todd character in a position that many Americans are put in on a daily basis.
As a whole, the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign does a decent job with visual rhetoric. Since the campaign is targeted at a younger age demographic, it is almost necessary to keep the audience’s attention through bright colors and a visually appealing media product. In the billboard picture there are no lowercase letters used. Although this is a subtle feature that may go unnoticed, it makes the graphic easier to read, and more visually appealing, especially to the younger generations.
The most common technique that the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign uses to gain a response is arousing emotions. For example, in the Put it Down video advertisement (below), forty seconds of the commercial are spent building up the relationship between to boys. However, after looking at a text while driving, one of the boys disappears in an apparent car accident. The goal of the video is for the viewer to become emotionally attached to the boys before the accident.
There really is a commanding use of pathos in most of the Ad Council’s work in general. They typically deal with the most important issues that America is facing which make emotions easier to play off of.
Another extremely common technique that the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign uses is the use of statistics like in the graphic below.
This graphic states that the average text takes your eyes off the road for nearly five seconds. Statistics can sometimes be tricky to convey in an image without making them difficult to understand or misleading. The Ad Council did a great job with this one though. This could have been a situation where the campaign tried to add in more information. They could have easily attempted to add in statistics regarding the length of time that is safe to look away from the road or another reason as to why five seconds is too long. They didn’t do that though and I think it is for the best. It doesn’t take too much calculating to realize five seconds is too long to be having your eyes off of the road and im sure that clicked for some viewers of this propaganda.
The audience reaction has been great overall according to the Ad Council. Since almost everyone knows, at least to some extent, that texting and driving is dangerous, it wouldn’t be fair to measure the campaigns success in that department. However, in the Texting and Driving Prevention section of the Ad Council’s website there is a statistic posted in large font. The statistic reads, “34% of teen and young adult drivers said they never text while driving, increasing from 28% in 10 months following launch.” This is an encouraging statistic for the campaign because it shows that the cause is moving in the right direction. I think what even more encouraging is that they used this type of statistic. It provides concrete information that points towards a decrease in texting and driving. If they would have posted a statistic that showed more teenagers now know that texting and driving is dangerous, it would not be nearly as powerful. The actual increase in the percent of teen and young adult drivers who never text and drive shows that the audience does have a positive reaction to the campaign.
It is also clear that there are other people who care about the cause. Since there are students who have been helping to create video advertisements that the organization airs as part of their propaganda campaign, they show that not only is the audience paying attention, they are actually engaging in helping the cause.
There is no one out there who is promoting texting and driving. In fact, the only companies who could even potentially promote this kind of counterpropaganda are generally campaigning along the same lines as the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign. For example, AT&T could be against this type of advertising. After all, they should want Americans on their phones as much as possible. However, the phone company publishes its own propaganda that aids in the prevention of texting and driving.
EFFECTS & EVALUATION
The effects of this propaganda campaign have been positive. The texting and driving issue is a tough one to tackle and it may never be completely eradicated. However, the year after the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign was started, 174 less people were killed in distraction related crashes than the year before, and only ten percent of the crashes involving 15-19 year olds were reported to be distracted at the time of the crash in comparison to 11% the previous year. Again, the results may seem minimal, but they are encouraging and verify that the campaign is headed in the right direction.
Everything that the Ad Council does is extremely professional. From the Board of Directors all of the way down to the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign, they do things the right way. It is obvious that the organization gets many donations for their work and that may actually add extra incentive for success. If donors start to see that they are not getting results, it is not difficult for them to transfer that money elsewhere. However, the Ad Council’s long history of success puts them in a great position to spearhead this campaign and they have done a great job with it over the past four years.
(2015, January 23). 25 Shocking Distracted Driving Statistics -. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://distracteddriveraccidents.com/25-shocking-distracted-driving-statistics/
About The Campaign. (n.d.). Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://stoptextsstopwrecks.org/campaign
Distracted Driving Laws. (2016, November). Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html
Project Yellow Light. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://www.projectyellowlight.com/about
Texting and Driving Prevention. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://www.adcouncil.org/Our-Campaigns/Safety/Texting-and-Driving-Prevention
Texting and Driving Statistics – Distracted Driving Drives Up Risk. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2016, from https://www.edgarsnyder.com/car-accident/cause-of-accident/cell-phone/cell-phone-statistics.html
Jowett, G. & O’Donnell, V. (2015) Propaganda and Persuasion: Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications.