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Prevent Mate Morphosis

While searching for more information about yesterday’s featured artist for my Beer In Art series, I discovered a second artist named Ben Sanders, this one working as an illustrator in Australia. Perhaps more importantly, he’s actually worked on a campaign to reduce drunk driving down under. The campaign, sponsored by the Motor Accident Commission, was designed to try and reduce drunk driving in the rural areas of southern Australia. Called Prevent Mate Morphosis, it employs a device you’d never see used by our own government and especially not by the neo-prohibitionists: irreverent humor.

Here’s how they describe the campaign:

Just like on the footy field, mateship is the glue that unites regional communities.

Mates look out for mates — it’s a big part of the Aussie culture. And they’d never intentionally do anything that would cause us harm. It’s just that sometimes, our mates can turn into blokes who, let’s just say, make bad decisions. Especially on the roads.

In this advertising campaign we’ve come up with a new name for this change in a mate’s behaviour. We’re calling it “Matemorphosis” — when your mate gets behind the wheel and morphs into a knob.

They continue by saying it’s “For Country People, By Country People:”

This is the first road safety campaign that’s specifically made for country South Australians, by country South Australians. The TV ads don’t use actors, but real people from different regions across SA and were filmed at Callington Football Club oval.

The campaign acknowledges that too many deaths occur on our roads because country roads are different to anywhere else. We all know we can’t change where we drive, but we can change how we drive. And the campaign makes the point that it’s up to all of us to make country roads safer.

But they sure seem like they’d get your attention far more effectively because they stop and make you think. Then they make you laugh, which in my mind would make them more memorable, as well.

Obviously, not all the idioms would translate to American English, but surely we could come up with equally effective and equally funny ones. Not that the folks in MADD and their ilk would, or even could, embrace any strategy that might involve humor. They’d undoubtedly complain that you can’t make light of so serious a problem. But if it furthers their supposed goal of reducing drunk driving, it really shouldn’t matter how the message is communicated, so long as it’s effective. Frankly, I’ve always believed you’d get a lot further being reasonable and human than constantly hammering the same serious propaganda.

And below is one of the billboards in action. I’d much rather see this on the road than a frying pan with an egg in it telling me that’s my brain or a needle sticking out of a bottle of beer equating it to heroin. Such heavy-handed imagery doesn’t work because it doesn’t ring true. It looks like propaganda because it is propaganda. Maybe a little humor would be better? It’s making me laugh … and pay attention.

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