While most Americans recognize the danger in using their smartphones while driving, few have withdrawn entirely from looking at texts, emails and posts while behind the wheel. Instead, they’ve developed a list of reasons as to why their actions don’t carry the same weight. Given distracted driving now causes 25% of automobile crashes and is involved in over 200,000 accidents each year, AT&T wanted create a campaign that helped people recognize their own behaviors – however trivial they may be – are part of the larger problem.
Whereas prevention campaigns in the past focused on teenagers, we were able to uncover a body of research from multiple transportation safety administrations that showed the problem of using smartphones while driving spanned all demographic and socioeconomic boundaries.
However, the thing they all have in common is that they universally share the belief they’ve got it all figured out. They claim to only use their smartphones at stoplights. Or in bumper to bumper traffic. Or in the carpool line. But this rationalization is often a slippery slope; soon, many are justifying the use of their phones in other situations. Stoplights turn to stop signs. Gridlock turns to driving under 30 mph. Carpool lines expand to familiar streets.
Confidence leads to hubris. They know the consequences but see their actions as exceptions. This confidence bias is what we chose as our driving insight for work, and message we wanted to convey was clear: you are not the exception to the rule.
The brief to the teams did not stop here. Our planning team, in partnership with the creative team, went further by investigating the executions of similar PSA campaigns and discovered a trend we wanted to avoid: most PSAs associated with distracted driving – smartphones, alcohol, drugs or otherwise – start with a person behind the wheel that ends up in a crash. While visually interesting, this approach generally lacks the human element that is needed to truly drive culture through creative ideas.
To be more engaging and personally relevant, we stepped back from the traditional story arch of bad actions equalling consequences over time and instead dramatized how one split second and one tiny glance could have a lifetime of consequences. It was the application of the butterfly effect to our cause.
we knew that we needed to establish real emotional connections with our audiences. To accomplish that, we developed strong stories that anyone could relate to. Each creative execution for It Can Wait developed a narrative that brought the audience into lives of the characters. Once that connection was established, we dramatized how one split second and one tiny glance could have a lifetime of consequences.
Our first execution, “Close to Home”, started out quietly depicting people going about their day. All is normal and uneventful until a mother, who is driving with her child in the back seat, quickly checks a social media post on her phone. The fleeting distraction lead to devastating consequences — a fatal car crash that left viewers aghast.
Next, we partnered with the mobile app Wattpad and its top influencer, Anna Todd, to create a branded story. Anna wrote serialized narrative that created a strong emotional bond between readers and the main character over the course of nine chapters, culminating in the character’s death in a crash caused by distracted driving.
And finally, we created an immersive VR experience that put people in the driver’s seat, to experience first hand how dangerous distracted driving can be.
Cannes awarded our campaign with gold not in the least part due to it impact on our cause:
- Analysis of data from the Texas Department of Transportation showed that the campaign reduced smartphone-related distracted driving crashes by 9.5%, likely saving thousands of lives across the United States.
- The campaign generated over 6 billion earned media impressions.
- The long form film “Close to Home” was viewed over 22 million times across all channels and 77% of online viewers completed the entire film.
- The branded story on Wattpad, “Weeping Willow,” was read by over 200k people and generated 6 million social media impressions. The average user spent over 27 minutes with the branded story, an eternity in the mobile space, and 67% of readers shared the story with their friends.
- 15,128 people directly engaged with the VR experience, via 175 events that ran for 323 days throughout 2015. Over 744,981 people attended the events and watched on via film screens projecting the live VR experience.