According to an excerpt in Levitt & Dubner’s “SuperFreakonomics”*, drunk-walking is more dangerous than drunk-driving when considered on a per-mile basis. In fact, a drunk walker is 8x more likely to get killed. The only plus side to this odd factoid is that the drunk walker usually only inflicts harm on his/herself but not the same can be said about drunk drivers.
Drunk-driving is a huge social issue and public transportation is an infrastructural necessity especially in a country the size of Lebanon. Implementing other means of transportation that do not rely on your own motor skills (your’s and your vehicle’s) being at 100% efficiency, could contribute to decreasing the number of accidents and deaths due to driving under the influence.
Various international campaigns launched by alcoholic beverage companies are pushing for more responsible after-party choices when it comes to transporting your drunk-self home. Most of the agencies behind these campaigns use the idea of a trade-in option in order to get drinkers to opt for a safer ride through public transportation.
For example, during Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival, Antarctica, a Brazilian beer company, had its customers pay their metro fare using empty beer cans. “The Beer Turnstile” used the simple trade of a can for a ride: the can was scanned at the turnstile and the drinker could go home for free. The initiative led to a 43% drop in caught drunk drivers. Another beer company, Stiegl from Austria, replaced its product labels with tickets to use on the Salzburg public transportation system. Yes, these are huge PR stunts and get the brands, and their respective ad agencies, the coveted “socially responsible” stamp; however, a good deed is a good deed. Many lives were probably saved thanks to ideas like these.
Although Kunhadi’s drunk-driving TVC/Billboard campaigns are very powerful with their use of imagery and devastating story lines, the tone is on the heavy and somber side. Their Taxi Nights, parties that provide taxi rides home for all attendees, are great steps in the right direction that actually make a change on the ground where the real danger is. And let’s not forget the Ashekman graffiti piece that was commissioned early last month. It must be said though that Kunhadi is a non-profit organization that fights for road safety. They are not a brand so their approach differs than that of a beer company or any consumer good.
The Nissan “Suggest an Arrest” stunt in Uruguay Street addressed the problem by allowing friends to volunteer a drunk friend for a sobriety test. If they failed, they were driven home in a new Nissan. The activation, which took place during the month of March, was a nice try but they pushed their product to an unsusceptible customer, a drunk driver. Even if their heart was in the right place, the focus was more on the car and the PR attention rather than the desire to spread a message or change behavior.
Perhaps the government or private investors can help get public transportation implemented in a country, or at least a city, that is in desperate need of traffic relief, reduced carbon emissions, and a safer more economically feasible way of getting around. Perhaps more laws can be enforced when it comes to road violations, reckless driving, and distribution of DUIs & license confiscation. Perhaps, the most likely and doable “perhaps” given the ever-present cloud of doom over our Lebanon, more brands can jump on the fight-drunk-driving bandwagon provided that what they’re doing is relevant to their product and overall campaign idea. It doesn’t really matter if, deep down, they’re doing it to look good or to have the general public opinion shift to “bravo, bifakro bi ghayron”** – if it makes sense and causes more drinkers to be responsible, it’s a win-win.
*I definitely recommend this book and it’s prequel “Freakonomics” if you like reading books that make you think that all things are conspiracies and WTF MIND BLOWN.
**Arabic for “they think of others”