CAMPAIGNS: Public Affairs - Campaign to curb DWI goes local

Client: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Washington, DC)

Client: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Washington, DC)

Client: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Washington,


PR Team: Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide (Washington, DC)

Campaign: You Drink & Drive. You Lose.

Time Frame: December 1999 and ongoing

Budget: dollars 300,000 annually (including dollars 25,000 each for

December 1999 and June 2000 media events)

Having ’one for the road’ sounds terrific at a holiday party brimming

with good times, good friends and good cheer. But that extra drink can

be an expressway to a dead end: in 1998, nearly 16,000 lives were lost

in automobile accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers.

With its recently unveiled ’You Drink & Drive. You Lose’ campaign, the

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to reduce

the impaired-driving fatality rate to 11,000 by 2005. Working with

Ogilvy PR, the campaign depends on more than just DC news conferences to

achieve its death-defying goal. ’Success,’ insists Ogilvy account

director Lisa Kovner, ’is defined by change at the local level.’


NHTSA’s target audiences are the three highest risk groups: 21- to

34-year-olds, underage drinkers and repeat offenders. Kovner says the

big challenge is that people think such a tragedy will not happen to

them - but NHTSA figures show one in three people will be affected

either by being in an accident themselves or knowing someone who’ll be


Publicity coming out of DC is important. But Kovner says ’local groups

had been left on their own to do their own thing.’ More emphasis is

being placed on developing partnerships and where local groups dovetail

their efforts with the NHTSA message.


Media events in DC in December and June were timed just before holiday

partying started. December’s event launched the campaign. Mothers

Against Drunk Driving had regularly sponsored an annual event to

highlight the ’National Sobriety Checkpoint Week’ before Labor Day

weekend, but moved it to July 4th to align with NHTSA’s plans. Both

events drew strong media coverage.

To better assist local groups, Ogilvy produced a How-to Guide for

Planning and Publicizing Impaired Driving Enforcement Efforts that was

distributed to local law enforcement agencies and community

organizations. Included were sample news releases, town hall meeting

schedules, op-eds and advice on how to conduct media relations and build

partnerships. Advertising layouts for print PSAs warning that police

forces are operating sobriety checkpoints also were included.

NHTSA is working closely with the state transportation departments of

Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia. ’By working

directly with the states, we can streamline messaging, coordinate events

with national activities and provide materials that give a framework for

the states as they work with local government or civic organizations,’

Kovner emphasizes.

’We’ve always done a lot of education around the issue, but it wasn’t as

consolidated,’ says Spencer Moore, project director for Georgia’s

Operation Zero Tolerance program.


Official fatality figures for December and July are not available. But

statistics showing a 12% decrease over 1998 in fatalities for the

December 17-19 weekend preceding Christmas are interpreted by NHTSA as a

hint of early success. Over 50 million print media impressions were


Three hundred TV stories were broadcast for December. Results are still

being monitored for July 4th weekend, but over 600 TV stories were


Kovner attributes the rise in TV coverage to increased effectiveness by

local groups.


The campaign is six months old and will run until 2005. Greater use of

e-mail and the Internet is planned.

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