When it comes to something as important and powerful as road safety, it can be hard to get your point across with traditional advertising that, despite many tragic and funny ideas, is often ignored. Why? The biggest problem seems to be that although people are watching the ads, the content just isn’t getting through to them on the level it needs to so they change their behavior. This is where Volkswagen’s Eyes On The Road Cinema Stunt, a campaign that ran in Hong Kong recently, comes in.
The seat in MCL Cinema in Hong Kong slowly fill with people looking to be entertained. They take their seats, and an advertisement starts playing. It’s a first person perspective of somebody driving down the road, hardly interesting. Then, suddenly, every person in the cinema with a mobile phone in their pocket get’s a text message, and as hands reach to grab them, eyes leave the screen.
A ripple of surprise runs through the cinema as the screen now shows the car has violently crashed. The text message (and the screen) show a safety announcement about keeping your eyes on the road when you drive.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Volkswagen’s campaign is a sure winner. We weren’t even there and it’s firmly lodged in our brains, so we’re sure the cinema attendees feel much the same. Let’s break down the details of the campaign to see why it works so well.
When it comes to the shock factor implicit in a road safety campaign, it’s been a while since even I have seen it handled so spectacularly. The setting of the cinema means that the sound and visual components are all-encompassing, bringing everybody into the experience even if they are without a phone. For those with phones, the campaign is yet more powerful, as their simple actions are immediately linked to something of such consequence.
Even in the world we live in today, there are some instances where technology can still feel a little mysterious. Certainly, the close-range mobile broadcasting device that sent out the text message is what made the Eyes On The Road stunt work so well from a guerrilla marketing perspective. But to the people in the cinema it is an unknown technology entity, a machine that has impossibly targeted them where they are now, to deliver a powerful message. The mystery of the text, and the predicted behavior of those who looked at their phones, are what make people really think about the message behind this campaign.
And yes, without the text the campaign means nothing, but with it the entire thing is a seamless multi-medium message. Talk about clever.
A Brand Sells Nothing
Yes, this is an campaign produced by Volkswagen, but at no point are any safety related features of Volkswagen vehicles mentioned, nor is the company seemingly linked to the campaign in any way beyond the trademarked font, and of course their brand logo. This is what it’s a smart move from Volkswagen, they get good publicity for their brand not because their vehicles are better or worse, but because they care about drivers and how best to prevent them from making mistakes on the road.