Behind the Idea: 8 sobering stories for the NZ Transport Agency

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Drinking? Don’t drive. That’s the message in a recent spot launched by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to deter Kiwi guys from getting behind the wheel after a few beers.

Research shows that 85% of drink drivers involved in serious or fatal crashes are male and the NZTA needed a fresh way to land a hard truth with these bulletproof-feeling lads.

Clemenger BBDO Wellington created he Totally Compos Mentis campaign that launched with a hero film stitching together eight stories of lads doing what lads do before the antics combine into a single narrative and an all-too-familiar arc.

Below, the agency explains what went into creating the film and how it used humour to convey a serious message.

What was the brief?

The ‘drink, drive, get snapped’ message is a familiar one for Kiwi guys. They know the cops are out there. And they know the cops are busting people. They just don’t reckon they’ll be the one on the receiving end of a breathalyser.

Reality is, they are getting busted. Different guys, on different nights, in different parts of the country are all ending their night the same way. It’s the same old story. Over and over.

85% of drink drivers involved in serious or fatal crashes in New Zealand are male. A fresh approach was needed to resonate with these guys, to keep them off the road, when it mattered. To make them pause before they get in their car after a night out and think: what if I get snapped?

How did the initial conversations go?

We knew we couldn’t just tell one story. These guys might buy that one guy might get pulled over every now and then – but research showed they didn’t believe it happened often. And even less so did they believe it would ever happen to them. They always saw themselves as the exception to the rule.

Telling multiple stories was critical to the initial briefing – how could we show that plenty of guys all over NZ are getting busted, so suddenly you’d see the potential that it could be you, in your hood.

Tell us about the concept and why it was the right choice?

No one likes spinning a yarn to their mates more than a guy with a beer in their hand, so we tapped into the idea of multiple guys spinning multiple versions of the same yarn, and stitching these together into one narrative, told over and over.

Stitching eight different stories showed them that it’s happening way more than they think. And to guys just like them. Making the characters relatable and familiar was important, so they could see themselves or their mates in them.

If we did our job right, our audience would be right there partying along with these guys, but be crushed and uncomfortable when they’re busted. There’s no one to blame but the guys’ own call to get in the car.

Telling eight different stories also means we captured plenty of content that’ll allow us to reshuffle and rework future executions to keep the message fresh.

What was the production process like and biggest challenge?

On this one we traded a Word doc for a spreadsheet to craft eight scripts packed full of interchangeable moments. The biggest challenge was then crafting our edits from so much content.

With so many takes and options that could be cut together in infinite ways, we had to decide which made the strongest first edit, while leaving enough great moments for future cuts. There are plenty more gems we can’t wait to throw into the next films.

What’s the main message of the campaign and why is it important?

Whatever you’re drinking, and wherever your night takes you, if you get in your car at the end of it, you’re setting yourself up for failure. The police are out there catching guys like you – and they’ve heard your story many, many times before – so is drink driving worth the risk?

Why will the final assets resonate with consumers?

All of our projects with NZ Transport Agency go through multiple stages of audience testing, to ensure the execution and messaging resonate. This is from the initial stages of the brief, so we really know who these guys are, to concept and execution testing to ensure we’re confident in our approach.

What’s the most interesting or unique thing about the campaign that will help it cut through?

Getting busted by the cops is a major bum-out for these guys, so we had to find a way to tell this story that they wouldn’t instantly buy out of. Spinning long, entertaining yarns is basically a national pastime here, so we took this insight and used humour as our way in.

But the most unique thing about the campaign is how random and flexible it can be – we basically can create infinite versions of our stories with different fun fodder – so we have the ability to continue to refresh the campaign over and over and keep our audience leaning in.

What do you hope it achieves for the NZTA?

Ultimately, we want it to stop people drink driving – and save lives. Our client NZ Transport Agency (along with NZ Police) don’t actually want to have to snap drink drivers – they instead want pre-emptive solutions that stop people getting in their cars in the first place.

We hope this new humorous take on a traditionally serious message seeps into culture, gets under the skin of our audience and makes them rethink their call to drive, to make our roads safer for all.

What feedback have you had since launch?

It’s great to see people picking up and using the language we used in the spot over social – we know we’ve struck the right notes with our audience when they take it and run with it themselves.

As we track the campaign we’ll be able to see how it’s affected our audience’s behaviour – the ultimate satisfaction will be if we see a real decrease in rates of drink driving over time.




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