MADD drives home the dangers of impaired boating

The organization draws a direct comparison with drunk driving in a bid to change lax attitudes about drinking on the water.


As Canadians take to the waterways this summer, MADD Canada is sounding the alarm about impaired boating, and using a car to do it with a shocking reveal.

With its new “The Cost of Everything” PSA, the organization is taking a different approach to its anti-impairment messaging: using a family with kids, where the father is guzzling a beer behind the wheel, the wife is in the passenger side, as the car skids into a lake and then revealing the family to be in a boat.

Dawn Regan, MADD Canada’s COO, says the scenarios were combined for the hook, telling strategy that the organization always wants its PSAs to have a “what did I just see?” component. While drinking and driving is seen as wrong by most Canadians, the same attitude is not as prevalent when it comes to drinking on boats and other watercraft.

“It should shock people into saying, that’s not right” Regan says, adding that the choice to highlight that the father as being impaired was deliberate. “It’s predominantly males responsible for impaired driving and boating, so we focus on the male who is likely to be driving.”

The boating community as a whole, she says, doesn’t take impairment as seriously as people do on the roads. With this campaign, the organization is targeting boaters of any age, as “all can be responsible and need to get the message.” She says that youngsters who have grown up with boating also need to change behavioural thinking about drinking and being on the water that they may have picked up from parents.

The broader “Campaign 911” water safety program is tied to the organization’s “Call 911” signs, 1,200 of which were distributed nationally to marinas, and funded through Transport Canada, warning people to call that number if they see someone who is impaired and operating a watercraft.

Regan says the new ad, like all of its PSAs, will air on TV, with the organization getting the equivalent of 15 million dollars in ad value equivalency for free air time, which generates millions of impressions. MADD Canada also uses social media channels and serves ads to boaters directly. The English and French campaign will run throughout the summer and beyond Labour Day weekend. Production was done by MJM Media, and the digital buy was handled by OKD Marketing.