The Volunteer State may want to think about hiring some new help.
The Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office recently decided to drum up some anti-drunk driving awareness and specifically aimed to target young men to remind them not to get behind the wheel after having a few too many.
Instead of creating a simple campaign cautioning against the perils of driving under the influence, someone thought it would be fun to try a cutesy, sexist approach. The slogans included:
“After a few drinks the girls look hotter and the music sounds better. Just remember: If your judgment is impaired, so is your driving.”
“Buy a drink for a marginally good-looking girl, only to find out she’s chatty, clingy and your boss’s daughter.”
Also included was a “Legends of the Stall” graffiti campaign, wherein one cartoon shows a drunk guy happy he didn’t drive, but unhappy he may have bedded a “creepy older woman.”
According to The Tennessean, the Governor’s office said the campaign, which was created by an outside agency, was “intentionally designed to reach the young male demographic, who are statistically more likely to drive under the influence. Well-known adages, like dating the boss’s daughter, were used to grab their attention within the bar environment. Our office continually experiments with new strategies in order to be effective with various target demographics, and we will be closely monitoring the results.”
The campaign, which was funded by the federal government at a cost of $77K, printed the slogans on flyers and coasters, which were distributed at bars throughout the state. And while it’s true that young men are frequenters of bars, so are young women.
And while it’s true, too, that shocking, edgy comedy will likely capture a young man’s attention, what the campaign’s creators seemed to have overlooked is that young women can also read. Preventing drunk driving is a serious mission, although avoiding sexist, rude, and misogynistic portrayals of women is also kind of important.
Snarky, off-beat humor can certainly sell, but when the message is so serious, and the source of the message is highly regarded, perhaps sexual, potty-mouthed jokes insulting to women — and many men — isn’t a good way to go.
There’s usually no such thing as bad publicity, but in this case, that’s debatable.
Of course all good (and highly stupid) things must come to an end, and the campaign was pulled after only a few days and lots of public outcry.
An official statement about its suspension read:
The Governor’s Highway Safety Office would like to apologize for any offense caused by the 100 Days of Summer Heat Booze It and Lose It Campaign. The marketing is often edgy and designed to grab the attention of the young male demographic. It was never the intent of the GHSO to be insensitive or insulting to women.
The Governor’s office said the campaign was a part of “social norms marketing,” in which “high-risk populations” are targeted “with messages about normal behaviors, as opposed to commonly held beliefs about exaggerated substance abuse norms.” It remains unclear, however, why stereotypes of drunk, buffoon-like guys and ugly, easy girls needed to be used in this case.
Preventing people from driving under the influence of alcohol is a worthy, if difficult mission. But doing so without taking women down along the way can’t be all that hard.