This billboard, which went up this week next to the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto, is provocative in the extreme—blatantly urging drivers to text and drive as a way of drumming up business for the advertiser, Wathan Funeral Home.
But there's a method to the madness.
It's actually a PSA from the Montreal office of agency John St., in partnership with out-of-home company Cieslok Media. No, Wathan Funeral Home isn't real. But it does have a website, where angry motorists who've Googled the place are confronted with this message:
If you're here, you've probably seen our "Text and Drive" billboard. And if you have, you probably came to this website to tell us what horrible people we are for running an ad like that. And you'd be right.
It is a horrible thing for a funeral home to do. But we're not a funeral home.
We're just trying to get Canadians to stop texting and driving, which is projected to kill more people in Ontario this year than drinking and driving. That's right. More. And while most people wouldn't even think about drinking and driving, over half of Ontario drivers admit to reading texts while behind the wheel. That's more than half of the drivers on the road today risking their lives, their passengers' lives and the lives of their fellow motorists and pedestrians.
Which should make you even madder than our billboard did.
Cieslok Media says the ad is designed to get people thinking about the real consequences of texting and driving. "With an out-of-home inventory situated in high traffic, high-impact locations, it made sense to leverage our digital sign on the Gardiner to amplify this message for the general public good," says Cieslok president and CEO Jörg Cieslok.
"People see and hear the words 'Don't text and drive' almost every day, but the number of people doing it keeps going up and up," says Mylene Savoie, managing director of John St. Montreal. "So we wanted to think of a different way of saying it that would make people think about the real consequences. Which is where 'Text and drive' came from."
The only downside to this concept, really, is that reading small print on billboards can be a little distracting, too.