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Straight Public Service, No Chaser

The 2005 “Project Roadblock” campaign against drunk driving reached more than 97% of the country and generated an estimated $6 million in exposure. But perhaps most impressive, research shows that the effort persuaded nearly 20% of the people who viewed the ads to take action.

A joint venture between the Ad Council, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the Television Bureau of Advertising—the second year it has been tried—the public-service campaign saw 638 stations air more than 21,000 PSAs during its week-long run leading up to New Year's Eve. The Project Roadblock name is derived from the initiative's concentrated seven-day push to blanket the airwaves with a message to avoid driving while intoxicated. It also happens to be a week when stations don't always have lots of ads to run.

The effort marked the debut of the “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving” message, an evolution of the long-running “Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk” campaign. It was the most successful single push for the 20-year-old anti–drunk-driving effort in terms of the number of stations participating, number of spots aired, percent of the country covered, and people reached (49 million).

Stations from 133 broadcast groups ran the spots, which were produced by the Ad Council and were worth an estimated $3.8 million in media placements. Their support of PR efforts, including stations' covering the campaign on their local newscasts, extended the campaign's value (by an additional $2.4 million).

“A stunning performance from the tele­vision stations,” says TVB Executive VP Abby Auerbach.

Although the campaign ran for only a week, 18% of the people who saw it said in a follow-up survey that they had recently acted to stop an impaired friend or family member from driving under the influence. The research also showed nearly 25% of men ages 21-35, the campaign's target, had seen or heard about the campaign (drunk driving remains the leading cause of death for younger Americans; the majority of those killed are men).

“We had the ability to really break through to the targeted audience in that short period of time,” says Ad Council President/CEO Peggy Conlon.

At the TVB marketing conference, the Ad Council will award WHBF Davenport, Iowa, a “Silver Bell” honor for its commitment to the campaign. The Citadel Broadcasting CBS affiliate scheduled the PSAs so that 80% ran during the heavy-viewing dayparts between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. The station also ran banners for the campaign on its Web site and aired a week-long series during its evening news.

Tribune Broadcasting will receive a “Silver Bell” for its overall commitment to Ad Council initiatives. Tribune's 26 stations were active participants in “Project Roadblock” and other public-service efforts.

Says Conlon, “They really understand the role they can play in the community to help solve problems.”