Hearts and minds – via ads

When it comes to winning hearts and minds (and dictating our behaviour), commercial marketing has run rings around public-service advertising for decades now. But some public-good campaigns on our radar are looking slick


Big brands get to throw serious budget at making us decide to buy their stuff, and their communication is often exceedingly good. Funny, startling, though-provoking, sexy, whatever it takes: they’ll push our mental buttons to make us do what they want us to.

Car companies are some of the best in the business. Leaving aside the super-hospitable environment for car buying helpfully created by national leaders, car companies objectively make great ads and many have become iconic.

Awww, we love Crumpy and Scotty!

So with the might of bazillion-dollar budgets behind them, and our manipulable brains at their disposal, what’s pushing back against the car’s takeover of our brains? Well, some academics are writing good articles, but also… two good things are out there!

Road To Zero campaign 2022

“Drive safer” messaging is notoriously hard to do well, and even when done well its impact is hard to measure. And plenty of folk who froth angrily on principle about “public spending” get extra frothy when that’s spent on communications  or [*red mist fills eyes] marketing or [*hysterical rage] bEhAvIoUr ChAnGe iT’s sOcIaL eNgInEeRiNg!!!!!!!

But –  as the international Vision Zero philosophy holds – while not sufficient to fix the problem on its own, advertising and communication is absolutely necessary as part of the suite of changes to get less death on your roads.

Waka Kotahi’s comms team is putting its shoulder to the Road To Zero wagon. And they’re leaning into the awkwardness of their setup in a very funny way…

Who has to behave?

The creator of this little video – using real footage – used to work in marketing for some of the world’s biggest car brands. Now, since having the audacity to try to bike with his kids to school, he’s using his powers for good.

This video is incredible. Simple, unadorned, and leaving no room for the little (big) lies we tell ourselves every day, about who gets to do what safely on our streets.

We hope that those charged with the public good (and spending our money on it) will really start using that power in the public good.

We’ll leave you with a scalding (and justified) burn on city authorities – made for north America but gosh some of those “drive safe” cartoons look awfully familiar…


What other devastatingly (or delightfully) good advertising or marketing have you seen that helps the cause of pro-people streets? Or any other urban goodness?

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