Do anti-drink driving ads work?

An ad highlighting the dangers of something doesn't magically produce better judgement.

Do anti-drink driving ads work?
Photo by Sidral Mundet / Unsplash

South Africa has a serious drinking and driving problem.

Driving under the influence costs thousands of South Africans their lives every single year and burdens the road accident fund with billions of rands of claims.

This reckless behaviour has become an unfortunate part of our culture, but what can be done to curb it?

Do anti-drink driving ads - like this one that was created by BrandHouse 10 years ago, make any positive difference?

This morning I chatted to 702's Africa Melane about it...

In most countries, bringing about awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, as well as strict law enforcement, does bring about positive change.

But as the saying goes; 'culture eats strategy for breakfast' - in South Africa there is an entrenched car culture, a pervasive drinking culture and an ineffective policing culture.

Ads highlighting the problem in the face of this are going to have very limited effect on shifting the behaviour of society. People who are schooled in poor judgement don't just magically develop the skill of better judgement just because they saw an emotionally charged TV ad.

If authorities really wanted to curb drinking and driving they would embark on a process of shifting the belief systems of people. Starting with an understanding of where the current beliefs come from and slowly replacing those beliefs with better ones.

Poor judgement and decision-making come from the mental models and assumptions which are held deep within our consciousness - changing this is a devil of a thing.

It's not easy, it's not cheap, it's not quick - but it will be far cheaper than what the country currently pays for the scourge of drinking and driving.

But take a slice of the budgets given to the departments of health, transport, policing and social justice; rope in rich insurance companies and alcohol producers and you will have more than enough money to get the process going.

Alternatively you face a future where more and more money and lost lives are sacrificed to the roads - causing untold and tragic 2nd and 3rd order negative consequences for families and communities.

This future is not set in stone, but when a society shrugs its collective shoulders and says 'oh well', then the status quo is what we are effectively choosing.

In many ways America is grappling with something similar when it comes to their problems with gun violence. Ads are made (bloody good ones too)...

...that highlight the issue, but the history of the issue is vast and complex and so too are the possible solutions.

Perhaps then the best thing that an anti-drink driving ad can do is to start the conversation, spark the debate, ignite the fire under all of us - forcing us to admit that if nothing changes...nothing changes.