AT&T takes on texting while driving with Fleishman, H+K

DALLAS: AT&T has teamed up with two of its agency partners, Fleishman-Hillard and Hill+Knowlton Strategies, to re-launch a campaign to stop texting while driving.

DALLAS: AT&T has teamed up with two of its agency partners, Fleishman-Hillard and Hill+Knowlton Strategies, to bolster a campaign to stop texting while driving.

The telecommunications company is spending “tens of millions of dollars” on all elements of the “It Can Wait” campaign, said Larry Solomon, AT&T's SVP of corporate communications. The company wanted to take on the issue because it believes texting while driving is a growing phenomenon leading to accidents.

Each year, there are more than 100,000 automobile crashes in which people are injured or die because a driver was texting, according to the National Safety Council. While this is an age-agnostic issue, AT&T's outreach will target teenagers “who tend to believe they are bulletproof,” Solomon said. A recent AT&T survey found that 75% of responding teens said texting while driving is common among their friends.

The company first launched the anti-texting-while-driving campaign in 2009. Its earlier experiences made AT&T feel that it created an effective initiative this time around.

“People don't want to be lectured or told what to do; the message ‘It Can Wait' really resonated,” Solomon said.

While he feels that the campaign was successful, he expects this year's version to reach a much larger audience due to new social media channels that either did not exist or were not used in 2009.  

A primary goal of the effort is to get consumers to commit to never text and drive again during a national pledge day on September 19. In the long run, AT&T hopes the campaign will encourage others in the telecommunications industry to raise awareness and create technological solutions for the problem.

The initiative's outreach components include a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter, as well as a “Twibbon” initiative, in which consumers who make the pledge will see an icon appear on their social media photos.

AT&T is also distributing a toolkit of no-texting-while-driving information, educational summit data, and a microsite. It will also place an in-car simulator in 200 locations around the country so consumers can see first-hand what could happen when texting and driving.

There is a grassroots component to the campaign as well. Many of AT&T's 240,000 employees pledged to do outreach in their communities about the issue. Some specifically said they would go to local high schools to spread the word, and various organizations have also agreed to collaborate with AT&T to get the word out.

Since the campaign launched, various states and cities will have a proclamation on the subject on September 19, and 13 states have promised that their highway signage will display campaign messages.

David Ashley Blaker, SVP and partner at Fleishman, said it is smart to use unbranded messaging in the campaign.

“It's not AT&T telling you not to text and drive; it has friends telling people not to text and drive,” he said.

H+K's role in the campaign has been to localize the message to various communities. The firm has worked with people who have been in texting-related accidents to add their voices to the campaign.

“[The campaign] is making a connection and quite a bit of buzz at the local level,” said Jason Huntsberry, an SVP at H+K. “We're starting to really see some good responses to it.”

Other providers like Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile have also launched or supported similar anti-texting while driving initiatives.

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