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Transport organisations walk contradictory talks

Mixed messages regarding safe transport have John Rowley confused.


There is a Transport for NSW advertisement that shows a man being shot from a cannon, carried in a litter by a dozen lithe blondes, and failing to master teleportation. He also struts past an RBT station on his way home from the pub, his footsteps illuminating the concrete pavement blue, pink and green.

The irreverent ‘Plan B’ campaign was launched in mid-2012. It encourages the public to consider alternatives to driving under the influence – options like taxis, buses, a friend’s nearby bed and a stroll home.

Another advertising campaign tackles similar territory – but with a different angle. The private, non-profit Pedestrian Council of Australia (PCA) has been running a campaign intermittently since late 2011 with a simple message: “never let a mate walk home drunk.”

Transport for NSW and the PCA are targeting similar demographics. The NSW Government’s Strategic Communications website states that ‘Plan B’ is aimed at 17-25 year-old males, while CEO and founder of the PCA Harold Scruby said that 18-30 year-olds in “that youngish, testosterone-driven area” were the intended audience of his organisation’s campaign.

Despite this crossover, both organisations are emphatic that there are clear distinctions between their respective campaigns’ target markets. For one thing, ‘Plan B’ relates primarily to drivers, while ‘Never Let A Mate Walk Home Drunk’ does not. The PCA campaign also focuses on persons with a blood alcohol content of over 0.15, whereas the Transport for NSW message is aimed at those with a lower BAC.

The PCA does not condone walking home when mildly inebriated. According to Harold Scruby, “it’s not dangerous to walk home at .06, .07, .08” (though he “wouldn’t like to be walking home at .09”).

A spokesman from Transport for NSW echoed Scruby’s claim, saying that walking is “quite safe for people with a lower blood alcohol content who aren’t severely intoxicated.”

The categories being targeted by the Transport for NSW and the PCA, then, could be summarised as ‘intoxicated males’ and ‘severely intoxicated males’. The obvious problem is that the boundaries between the two are fuzzy at best – and that’s if you’re sober.

Of the two campaigns, ‘Plan B’ has certainly been more visible, with promotion through television, radio, in-venue, out-of-home and online platforms. The PCA campaign has been comparatively low-key, relying on television networks to air a fifteen-second community service announcement for free. The PCA, which Scruby said relies on “a mixture of private and government” funding sources, has also used in-venue advertisements and outdoor stencilling.

The PCA campaign is currently being rested after summer. Scruby said that “there’s no doubt” the campaign will be rolled out again during the year, assuming funding can be secured. The PCA is yet to conduct any formal evaluation of its campaign due to budgetary constraints, but Scruby professed a hope to do so in the future.

According to Transport for NSW, evaluation of the ‘Plan B’ campaign “has shown strong cut through in targeting young males”. A spokesman from the organisation said that the ‘Plan B’ campaign “will be in the market for the majority of the year,” and described its message as “complimentary” to that of the PCA.

When asked about the potential for confusion between the PCA and Transport for NSW campaigns, Scruby said that “there may be some mixed messages in there, and maybe we should be discussing those for future campaigns”.

According to Transport for NSW, a BAC of 0.05 or more is detected in about half of all pedestrian fatalities in the 17-49 age bracket.

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