Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Do characters work?

As an addition to our 'bubbles' theme, we are using characters for a road safety campaign aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of being a 'distracted walker'. We have selected five key personality types: The Geek, The Jock, The Style Queen, The Indie Kid and The Girl in Love.

These characters will be easily recognisable and feature in our advertising. We will also have cartoon versions that will be used online in social networking and interactively in the hope that young people will be able to engage with and relate to at least one of them. In research, we asked respondents why they talk on the phone/listen to music as they walk. With reference to these results, we created the characters and their reasons for being distracted:

The style queen can't bear the thought of walking alone and needs to be gossiping constantly on her Blackberry, the jock needs to feel a beat as he walks and likes listening to Dizzee Rascal on his way to college, and the girl in love can't not speak to her boyfriend every spare moment she gets; you hang up, no you hang up, love you, love you more...ok we get it.

I want to know what you think about using characters to engage with audiences aged between 16 and 24. We would be stereotyping in using these characters. Do you think it will work or does it run the risk of being patronising? Does it depend on how we do it? Would you be engaged with the personality most similar to yours?

Friday, 20 November 2009


In focus groups that we conducted with young people to discuss road safety, we spoke about the idea that when you are plugged in or on the phone whilst walking you are in your own world. The term used was 'in your own bubble'. Every single respondent understood this phrase. We also found that young people have almost become immune to shocking advertising as a deterrent. We showed a group of 16-18 year olds a shocking poster of a graphic car crash and they found it funny, making pizza and drugs jokes.

So...the big reveal! The concept of our road safety campaign is how pedestrians walk around in 'bubbles' when they are plugged into electronic devices. We want to show this literally e.g. people walking the streets in giant bubbles. We have proved that the concept is easy to grasp and the strap line "How will you burst your bubble?" implies that eventually you will snap out of your own world with perhaps fatal consequences.

Picture an average busy street. The people walking around have bubbles around them if they are distracted walkers (e.g. on the phone, texting, listening to music). Other people are as normal. It's actually quite amusing. Inside each person's bubble you feel what they feel, hear what they hear, it's dreamlike, you hear their thoughts and share their agenda. Coming back out of their bubble you see reality - the busy street. Traffic lights. Car horns. Roadworks. Crossings beeping. A lorry reversing. People chattering. Person in a bubble steps out to cross the road. An oncoming car is about to burst their bubble. It can't stop in time. People stop and stare in horror. Water and liquid explodes everywhere - POP. Foam on the bonnet, water leaking down the drain, close up in front of the dented car on the floor. A huge puddle with nothing...except an ipod in the middle.

What do you think?

Monday, 16 November 2009

Why listen to music or talk on the phone?

The results of our online survey showed that there are several reasons that young people use their phones or listen to music whilst they walk. There were 50 respondents in total between the ages of 16 and 25, all of whom chose at least one of the following reasons:

Passing time: 25.45%
Entertainment: 22.7%
Boredom: 17.27%
Convenience: 17.27%
Escapism: 9.09%
Loneliness: 8.18%

Not a single respondent selected 'other'. It's fair to say that this means young walkers crave some kind of distraction as they walk, that simply walking and being aware of their surroundings isn't stimulating enough. However it is possible that some of these walkers are being over-stimulated by their use of technology and may mean that the road does not get enough of their attention.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Online Survey

Next week I will publish the results of an online survey which takes a look at the attitudes of young people towards walking in the streets. The survey is being completed by those aged 16-25 and will hopefully give some insight into the mindset of walkers who listen to mp3 players and/or speak on the phone. To complete the survey click here (you must be aged 16-25).

I don't want to I won't.

In 2008 there were 572 pedestrians killed and 27,910 injured in the UK. Many suggest that mp3 players and mobile phones are largely to blame. They could be right - as you walk down most streets, it's commonplace now to see people talking on phones or listening to music. In fact for many people, it's unthinkable to walk down a street without one of these to entertain them.
The fact that being a distracted walker is dangerous may seem strange to some, when we are so freely encouraged to plug in our music and call our friends as we walk. Think of any advertising for mobile phones or mp3 players you've seen recently - most of them are set in the street. We trust these companies and assume that they would never encourage something dangerous to make a profit...think again.
Now many young people have an established 'norm' of entertainment whilst you walk. This makes the task of making them realise and understand the dangers a whopper. It makes the task of changing their behaviour almost impossible! Scarily pedestrian accidents are happening more and more frequently making more work for our emergency services and putting other people in danger. Something's got to give.