Loud & Clear – Freestyle Cyclists

The hidden dangers of headspinning without a helmet. Won't someone THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!?

If you wanted to improve cycling safety with a radio advertisement, how would you approach it? Would you target the source of the trauma or blame the victim?
The RTA recently commissioned a radio advertisement aimed squarely at cyclist safety. An advertising company called Loud won the tender and, given they’ve done good work before, it all looked promising… until we heard it (Audio Link)

Firstly, a few comments about the content of the advertisement:
  • They make the fallacious jump from medieval battledress to ‘all kinds of cool stuff’ requiring helmets (I don’t think polystyrene is quite up to battle standards, only AS/NZS2063:2008)
  • Skateboarders & horse riders aren’t forced by law to wear helmets (most don’t wear them; as a horse rider neck injuries are more concerning and a helmet does nothing for this)
  • Breakdancers wear a helmet to reduce friction for headspins, not to reduce head injuries (although some might classify inadvertent balding as a serious head injury)!
  • The patronising, thick Australian accented male, follows with “…what makes your head so special?” and a warning that you’re likely to end up with a severe head injury if you ride a bicycle to the shops (but not if you walk?)

Classic fear campaign aimed at the victim and not the perpetrator.

Oddly, the one thing that is responsible for the most head injuries in this country is not mentioned at all – motor vehicles. This includes head injuries of the occupants and people the vehicles hit! If wearing a helmet is common for ‘all kinds of cool stuff’ then surely it would make sense to force all car occupants to wear helmets too?

On this site there is some further startling information, presumably straight from the RTA’s brief to the advertising agency:

“In the five years to 2009, 17 cyclists without helmets were killed on NSW roads”

This is a fact. It is also a fact that in the 5 years to 2009 the average annual death rate of cyclists in NSW was 11.7 (approx 58 cyclists killed). This means that 41 cyclists died with helmets over the same period. Oddly enough the percentage of cyclists killed without helmets is roughly the same percentage that choose to not wear helmets while riding a bicycle…

They then state this little piece of propaganda:

“And over the 2010 period alone, this figure jumped to 12 cyclists who died while they were not wearing a helmet.”

This is most definitely not true. This is the total number of cyclists who have died, most of whom were wearing bicycle helmets. But why let facts get in the way of a terrible advertisement. We don’t want to confuse the ‘target’ audience with facts!

Why this required an advertising agency at all is a mystery, but it helps shift the focus from the one-sided RTA to someone else I suppose, although the agency was happy to add their ‘uneducated opinion‘ on the topic:

“We’re excited that the RTA chose a different creative approach to address a serious issue,” said Joe Van Trump, executive creative director at Loud. We’re confident it will reverberate with our audience, which is our aim with every campaign we create.”

It certainly will reverberate with their audience: non-cyclists. I doubt that any person who regularly uses a bicycle will be listening to this as they travel to work. They need their ears to listen out for distracted drivers…

This is how other agencies around the world make advertisements for cyclist safety:

More here.

Is it really that hard to produce a constructive advertisement here in Australia? Why are our tax dollars being spent on such initiatives (and the people that dream them up) instead of say… I don’t know… some protection for cyclists at intersections in NSW?

(Image from MoreThanAStance.com)

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