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?


  1. I think if you don't try and tell people which stereotype they fall into you should have no problem! Comedians use stereotypes in their gigs all the time for laughs. When they mention all the stereotypical naggling and silly niggles about women, its always the women that laugh hardest because they identify with it. The same with men. Or if comedians spot teenagers in their audience, you immediately get the hoody comments and the moody teen jokes. But the teens dont mind because they know to some extent that its true and will laugh at it! if you do it the right way it wont seem patronising at all. :)

  2. Characters are really effective since people can relate to them. They also create a sense of interactivity, it's a fun way of getting a serious message across.

  3. Just to raise an additional question, do you think it is the right choice of characters? Or is there some other characters we could have used instead? Would you be able to identify to either the stylish girl, the jock, the girl in love, the indie or the academic?

  4. Using different characters is a key PR and marketing tool- even if they are stereotypes. In fact, that is the point. In order to get "personification" and "identification", you have to present characteristics to which people can relate. I would be tempted to add another one- the young mum, who is so busy juggling fold up push chair, screaming toddler and the phone my opinion, they are a more lethal problem as the distracted pedestrian who assumes that everyone will adjust the way they behave to avoid the danger.