SAAQ changes its tune

Not one to shy away from shock tactics, the Quebec Crown corp decided to tone down its marketing in respect to recent events.

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There’s the power of suggestion, and then there’s just simply stating or showing the truth, as ugly as it may be.

Le société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) could have, as it usually does, taken the latter route and shown the dramatic consequences of impaired driving in its latest holiday PSA. But public relations officer for the Quebec Crown corp Mario Vaillancourt says it just didn’t feel right to do that this year, given the pains of the pandemic.

“The SAAQ preferred not to use dramatic methods to show people in distress or involved in accidents,” he tells strategy. “We therefore used humour to suggest to viewers and listeners that there is a risk of being seriously injured when driving after drinking or using drugs.”

Indeed, the SAAQ took a more facetious tone with its latest campaign, suggesting the types of “gifts” a person can give their loved ones, such as a spinal or a skull fracture. The so-called gifts (or consequences of impaired driving) are presented in a box containing a cannabis joint in the one spot, and a bottle of alcohol in the other, beside a set of car keys.

In years past, the organization has fashioned much more dramatic campaigns to get people to think before speeding or texting or drinking behind the wheel. For example, in January, SAAQ created a seemingly endless loop of a person being hit by a car. That adds to other previous high-impact campaigns like “Leaves,” which showed a head-on collision; the award-winning “Bones vs. Steel” stunt that used motion tracking to show a speeding car hitting a pedestrian’s X-rayed avatar; and a VR campaign that gave people and up close and personal view of the dangers of speeding.

Vaillancourt notes that the SAAQ launches impaired driving campaigns three times a year – first, in the spring, around International Cannabis Day on April 20; then, at the start of summer when restaurants, bars and patios are typically busy; and lastly, around the holidays when, in a normal year, Canadians attend holiday parties and drink.

The holidays are typically a time of year when incidents of impaired driving tend to be heightened. And this year, multiple studies have shown that there has been an increase in alcohol and drug consumption as a result of pandemic-related stresses and isolation.

The campaign was developed by Lg2 and is being promoted online, in social, as well as regional TV and radio. Touché! was tasked with the media planning, while Cossette Media handled the media buy.