Mobile Phone Use and Cars: a Dangerous and Disturbing Combination

By Amy Valentine   |   August 4, 2015

One of the most disturbing ad campaigns running these days is AT&T’s campaign “It Can Wait,” advocating mobile phone safety. With Austin enacting a strict hands-free mobile-phones-in-car policy as of January 1, 2015, this campaign resonated with me. And the campaign has done exactly what the creators intended: made one driver stop checking her mobile phone in the car.

Prior mobile phone safety ads have focused on the teen and young adult demographic, pointing out victims of fatal car crashes who were texting about parties or boyfriends. That’s not me. AT&T’s campaign, created by ad agency BBDO, targets 30 and 40-year-olds. Now, we’re hitting closer to home. A recent article in the advertising industry’s major trade journal, Ad Age, talks to the creators of this campaign.

The ad, “Close to Home,” lulls the viewer into a sense of peace and tranquility as it shows ordinary people going about their lives. Then, suddenly, a driver glances at her mobile phone and a horrific crash occurs. This isn’t a texting conversation where the driver is obviously distracted for a prolonged period of time. The ad shows a mother glancing at her phone for a split second, telling her elementary aged child in the backseat carseat how many people “liked” the photo she recently posted of the daughter. That really could have been me.

The way the ad is filmed, the viewer is taken inside the car at the time of the crash, with slow motion glass breaking and bodies being horribly impacted by the accident. To be honest, I hadn’t really watched this ad to the end, until writing this blog post. Like viewing a horror movie through gaps in my fingers while holding my hands over my eyes, I have looked away or walked quickly into another room or pressed fast forward on my remote control before seeing the ad in its entirety.

“The core idea was how to dramatize how one split second, one tiny glance can have a lifetime of consequences,” said BBDO Executive Creative Director Matt MacDonald. “From that kernel of an idea that the team arrived at this beautiful film, this script of pulling back and showing the devastating consequences in graphic detail.”

The Ad Age article highlights how adults rationalize why it’s okay for them to use their mobile phones in the car. They are just checking a social media post, not texting. They are at a stop light. There aren’t a lot of cars on the road around them. I’ve found myself often using these same rationalizations when glancing at my cell phone. Since Austin enacted the hands-free policy, I’ve found it hard to refrain from checking my phone. I’m more aware of checking it and try to only do it at stop lights or when I’m on a neighborhood street instead of on the freeway. This ad has helped me put the phone down and concentrate on driving.

by Amy Valentine

Amy Valentine

About the Author

Amy, DeLaune's project manager, helps the office run smoothly, moving projects from client to writer to editor to art.

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