BCAA flips the conversation about driving while high

Instead of using scare tactics, the organization leans on positivity to promote safe driving after cannabis legalization.

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The British Columbia Automobile Association is steering away from fear-based messaging to encourage safe driving after cannabis legalization in October, asking parents to look to their millennial children as positive examples when it comes to not driving while high.

Working with agency 123w, the BCAA created a campaign that flipped the roles in a conversation many will remember having, with millennials telling their parents that if they decide to try cannabis at a party, then they shouldn’t drive, and there wouldn’t be any judgements if they needed to call them for a ride home.

In addition to two 30-second spots, the campaign also includes a series of 10- and 15-second videos showing different versions of the moment when a parent, having used cannabis at a party, gets into the car after calling their kid for a ride.

The videos are airing on TV, social channels and in-cinema leading up to legalization on Oct. 17. OMD Vancouver handled the media buy.

Rob Sweetman, founder and ECD at 123w, says developing the campaign presented a bit of a conundrum.

BCAA’s brand tends to lean towards the optimistic side, positioning itself as a positive force for its members and the communities in British Columbia that it serves. But the brief included statistics about the accident rate of people driving high, as well as their own perceptions around driving-while-high: a national CAA study recently showed that 20% of drivers between 18- and 34-years-old believe they drive the same or better after consuming cannabis.

But another study conducted by BCAA polling the same age group found some more hopeful statistics: 91% of millennials make plans for a safe ride home before a night out, 88% say they would never consider driving impaired, 78% say they would call out friends who considered driving impaired and 72% have been designated drivers over the last three years (with 55% doing it regularly).

“Millennials take the responsibility of designated driving really seriously, especially compared to other generations we spoke to,” Sweetman says. “That, coupled with the idea that BCAA wants to be a positive force, led to this role reversal idea.”

Sweetman says that while the agency initially went down “a bit of a dark path” due to the more sobering statistics, layering on the information about millenials and designated driving helped it avoid some of the more fear-based messaging other campaigns have taken to address driving while high.

“We thought it’d be a funny concept, but it’s also a way to just come at this differently,” Sweetman says. “A lot of the PSAs out there, people immediately disregard it if it’s exaggerated or feels far-fetched, because they think it’s not worth taking seriously. What actually disarms people is the use of humour, so we can not be so heavy but still talk about this topic and get the message across.”

The creative concept avoids “guilting” viewers and doesn’t pass judgement on those who are thinking about using or trying weed for the first time after it’s legalized. Sweetman says that cannabis has a lot of “positive momentum” behind it and its legalization is seen by many as a progressive step for Canada. He says making a blanket statement telling people to simply stay away from cannabis would have turned people off.

While the messaging in the creative seems to be targeted more towards parents, imploring them to follow their childrens’ example, Sweetman says the target for the campaign is broad, and the hope is that the message will resonate with millennials as well.

“They’ve been mocked a bit in media and commercials, and painted with this non-complimentary brush of them being lazy or entitled,” he says. “We’re saying no, they’re better than any generation at being responsible behind the wheel. We’re propping them up, so we hope this gives them a sense of pride and gets them to keep up the good work.”