What’s the Worst That Can Happen? New Mexico Shows You in Brutal Road Safety Ads

Placid scenes turn horrific

"What's the worst that can happen?"

That's a loaded question, especially for a road-safety campaign. And it's posed in a series of graphic spots from Albuquerque agency RK Venture for the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

Director Sean Broughton, a Hollywood visual effects expert, delivers three 30-second PSAs about drunk driving, seat belts and texting while driving. (There's also a 45-second mashup of the first two ads.) Tires shriek, glass shatters and crimson spurts in all directions. The texting spot is the real corker, presenting a nightmare vision I hadn't previously seen in such spots. ("It's not my blood!? IT'S NOT MY BLOOD!" You'll be hearing those words in your dreams.)

Warning: All four ads are very graphic.

"We wanted the 'What's the Worst That Can Happen?' campaign to reflect the reality of just how deadly impaired and distracted driving is [and hopefully] instigate behavioral changes among drivers," says RK Venture executive creative director Richard Kuhn.

This realistic, upsetting approach rises above category clichés owing to a strong element of hope that's lacking from many similar initiatives (the classic "ghost girl" spot creeps to mind). Here, each story presents the possibility that disaster can be avoided, if only people ask the right questions—and think carefully before they answer.

Agency: RK Venture
Principal, Executive Creative Director: Richard Kuhn
Broadcast Creative Director, Writer: Nick Tauro
Executive Producer: Akash Khokha
Director: Sean Broughton
Director of Photography: Dean Mitchell
Editor: Phil Perri
Effects, Color: Left Field Labs
Computer Graphics, Special Effests: The Brigade