The Victorian state government has launched a new road safety campaign on the Internet, telling people, "don’t be a dickhead, wear your seatbelt", and "don’t be a dickhead, don’t use your phone". Police minister and MP for Bendigo says it’s "… designed to confront, and this one confronts people that don’t have respect for other people on and off the road.” The campaign is receiving almost overwhelmingly negative response from the general public, from teachers to to politicians because of the language and message it sends. Some are slamming it for racial offensiveness and say it will encourage bullying, young people are calling it "lame" (Sunrise 30-3-10) and while marketing gurus will say all publicity is good publicity, it’s looking like a fail for the Victorian government. A poll from The Age suggests 77% of viewers don’t think it will help reduce the road toll. View the videos here.
Regardless of how effective, offensive, disrespectful or whatever that the adverts themselves might be, my issue with this is the intention of the marketers that this campaign will "go viral". The very fact that they’ve gone all over national TV trying to push the ads, by campaigning to the "young people" and saying that’s what the ads are intended to do, they’ve clearly demonstrated their lack of knowledge about how social networking and viral marketing really happens. I’m a teacher of young people – trust me, if you tell them that something is AIMED at them, DESIGNED for them, and they are the TARGET AUDIENCE, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that they’ll switch off and ignore whatever it is you’re trying to push at them!
If the advertisers had kept their mouths shut, had not tried to defend themselves and their use of language by justifying it as hitting the target audience’s buttons, they would have had a FAR better chance of the young ‘uns posting and reposting links to the offensive and disrespectful ads. Why? Because it might piss off their parents and teachers!
This one is, I think, a marketing fail.