LCBO deflates the elephant

This successful 2009 holiday campaign addressed the largest barrier to stopping a friend from drinking and driving: embarrassment.

Over the last 12 years, the positioning of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s (LCBO) holiday anti-drinking-and-driving campaigns has evolved from guilt and regret to the “friends stopping friends” message currently in market.
The concept for the 2009 “Deflate the Elephant” campaign was born of the simple insight that the largest barrier to stopping a friend from drinking and driving was embarrassment. This was the elephant in the room – the embarrassing issue obvious to everyone but too often ignored.

The LCBO team, led by Bill Kennedy, executive director, corporate communications, used this well-known idiom to create awareness and direct people towards the information and tools needed to help prevent their friends from drinking and driving.

Working with Due North Communications and MediaCom, the campaign used traditional and new media to leverage two of the LCBO’s greatest assets: its retail footprint of 611 stores and the popular Food & Drink magazine.
The communication goal was to drive partygoers to the companion microsite created by Dashboard Communications, The site’s main feature was a solutions-focused interactive experience that put users in a hosting situation where they needed to stop a friend from drinking and driving. To ensure relevance, different scenarios were created for men and women. Once the visitor made a selection, they were given a variety of options to help them speak up and stop their guest from drinking and driving. Printable tips and facts were seeded throughout the scenario.
Two 15-second TV ads,“Sports” and “Girls’ Night,” spoke to men and women separately during gender-targeted programming, and digital boards in men’s washrooms across the GTA aired the “Sports” spot.
Print ads in Food & Drink featured people at a social gathering casually talking and ignoring the elephant in the centre of the room.
Online, a search marketing campaign targeted people searching for drinking and driving tips and information on party hosting. Display ads appeared on sites such as Yahoo Lifestyle and, and pre-roll aired on
In-store material was developed to drive traffic to the site, using the elephant icon and the website address along with the challenge to speak up and save a life.

The campaign was well received and garnered extensive media coverage (far exceeding the earned media target) resulting in a total of 80 hits in print, broadcast and online outlets such as the Globe and Mail, National Post, MSN, 24 Hours, CBC Television, Global TV and CFRB 1010.
Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD Canada, publicly endorsed the campaign, and LCBO received congratulations from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Independent post-tracking research showed strong breakthrough and awareness for the TV campaign and point-of-sale materials.
The campaign overall had a positive impact on LCBO’s effectiveness to promote responsible consumption. The microsite was very successful in communicating the need to speak up, and those aware of the “elephant in the room” expression (81%) believed it to be effective in communicating the social awkwardness, while 74% thought it appropriately conveyed the message to not drink and drive.

Judges’ comments
“They really went for a showstopper. They used a big symbol to demonstrate the point.  It is very well done and makes the consumer feel better about stopping a friend from driving [drunk].”
– Claude Bernier


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