It all happened so fast

The Government of Ontario's newest distracted driving ad reminds people two seconds is all it takes.
gov of ontario

We’ve all said it: I’m not on my phone, I’m just checking who messaged me. Or, I’m not browsing, just glancing down.

But an accident can happen in those two seconds, and that’s the behaviour the Government of Ontario and John St. are trying to change.

With a new TV, pre-roll and cinema push targeting 17- to 21-year-olds, the latest campaign packs a wallop: a teen driving a car glances down for a second before he’s hit. The crash cuts immediately to him, paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

“We found many kids consider themselves immortal,” says Angus Tucker, partner and co-CD at John St. “But when pushed, the idea of being bound to a wheelchair was almost more horrific than dying.”

The campaign doesn’t focus on the blood, guts or effect on the family that distracted driving can cause, he says. And that was very purposeful. Instead, it focuses on the idea that these accidents happen not in minutes, but in seconds.

The behavioural barrier the government is trying to overcome is the idea that people aren’t talking on their phones, or indeed, using their phones at all – rather, they’re just checking something “really quickly.”

“It’s rationalizing that behaviour that ‘I was just looking at my phone for two seconds,’” he says. “But that’s all it takes.”

The videos themselves are purposefully short, with the crash happening at the four-second mark. This was done specifically to beat the pre-roll skip function on YouTube, but also to underscore the message, that crashes happen unexpectedly.

The digital campaign will also be supported by a longer, 60-second cinema spot, which follows the young man as he navigates his new paralyzed life. A social push and radio and Spotify buy, with media handled by PHD, round out the campaign. It will run throughout the rest of the summer.