Campaigns: Essex drivers steered to better behaviour

Drive Safe Essex: stencil
Drive Safe Essex: stencil

Campaign: Drive Essex
Client: Essex County Council
PR team: In-house
Timescale: January-April 2011
Budget: £100,000

Essex County Council is a member of the Essex Casualty Reduction Board, a partnership including the council, police, fire and rescue service, ambulance service and the Highways Agency.

Casualty figures for 2010 showed that 20 per cent of all serious injuries and deaths on the road occurred when a young person was behind the wheel.

The comms team at Essex County Council was asked to deliver a campaign to encourage 17- to 30-year-old males to positively change their behaviour in relation to drink-driving, speeding and other criminal driving offences.


- To ensure that 55 per cent of the target audience was aware of the campaign

- For 20 per cent of the target audience to have claimed to have changed their behaviour as a result of the campaign

- To drive 10,000 visitors to the Drive Essex website and secure 30,000 plays of the Reaction Road game and 2,000 competition entries.

Strategy and plan

In order to engage with the notoriously hard-to-reach audience, the team conducted extensive research, including analysis of road safety data, to identify the most effective way of raising awareness of the issues. This included identifying youth 'tribes' in Essex.

The audience was identified as being unreceptive to council messages so the decision was taken to remove the Essex County Council logo from the campaign and to develop an independent brand. The team chose to take a consumer-led approach to the campaign visuals, parodying high end car advertising in collaboration with creative agency Halo Media.

The PR team used a variety of channels to start conversations with young drivers about road safety and better disseminate the campaign's message. It ran adverts online and outdoors, used street stencils and set up a website.

An online game, Reaction Road, was also created, which provided a twist on a conventional driving game to test players' reactions while highlighting often forgotten aspects of the Highway Code. A scoreboard competition was launched where entrants were given the chance to win a day to test their driving skills.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign was covered in local and online press including the Essex Chronicle, Basildon Echo and BBC Essex Online. It was also covered on BBC News Online and in trade press magazine Care on the Road. It generated a number of tweets that were retweeted by organisations such as UN Road Safety Collaboration and Local Government Leadership, residents and practitioners.


An independent survey conducted after the campaign concluded that 60 per cent of the target audience were aware of the campaign and 25 per cent said seeing the campaign had made them change their behaviour. The campaign's website had 195,000 hits, there were 470,000 global plays of the Reaction Road game and the competition received 2,200 entries.


Louise Lloyd, Cirkle PR
Louise Lloyd, Cirkle PR

This was a tough challenge. How do you inspire behavioural change in 17- to 30-year-old men? Drink-driving and speeding are heavyweight issues, and ones that are a real turn-off for this audience.

The materials used to educate the audience mirrored the visual cues of upmarket motoring titles that appeal to young males. The mechanics, such as the online game, turned a difficult-to-tackle topic into an involving one and the employment of a variety of advertising touchpoints helped push the campaign into the Essex male consciousness.

The content challenged the audience to be great drivers and managed to communicate hard-hitting points in a relevant way. I believe the decision to remove the Essex County Council logo and to create the Drive Essex brand was key to the campaign's ultimate cut-through.

The campaign was clearly successful in terms of over-delivering on its initial objectives. It would be wonderful to see the 2011 casualty figures reflecting real behavioural change in this age group.

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