Paul Saxton

Advertising and marketing copywriter based in Norwich. I can help you to build your brand by helping you to sell your products and services.

Only Scumbags Speed

From Northern Ireland, yet another public safety ad that relies on shock value and the dramatic consequences of speeding in order to promote safer driving. What it doesn't do - as these ads never do - is talk to people on a level they can relate to. Nobody who speeds seriously thinks they're going to end up killing a child. It's such an implausible, unthinkable thing - the kind of thing that only happens to other people. This distance of thinking is stretched even further when the message includes a whole picnic blanket of kids crushed to death by a rolling car. So ludicrous and cartoony that it's almost comical.

I live in a nice middle-class area with loads of houses and kids and schools and shops. The speed limit around here is clearly shown as 20mph.  Yet every morning and afternoon, when the kids are to and fro-ing from school, I gnash my teeth at the sight of nice middle-class mums driving around like idiots (at the same time, of course, as displaying their 'Child on Board' stickers in the back windows of their nice middle-class cars.)

If you asked people what kind of people speed near schools, I imagine most would reply that they were pretty awful people. And I imagine most people wouldn't dream of admitting that they speed: after all, that's the kind of thing only awful people do.

(There are too many 'peoples' in that paragraph.)

A much more effective campaign, I reckon, would be us collectively adopting and promoting the following sentiment: "Only Scumbags Speed". The road signs would carry it, the information leaflets that kids bring home from school, TV ads, radio ads, posters... the lot. "Only Scumbags Speed". We keep it, we repeat it and we encourage ourselves to ensure that in the eyes of other people we're never seen as the kind of scumbag who speeds. Seriously, who'd want to be thought of as a scumbag? The really good thing about it is that it's self-evidently true: the only people who, for instance, choose to speed near schools are scumbags. I don't care how nice and middle-class and worthy you think you are. You do something like that - you're a scumbag.

Of course, the government would never go for anything that uses the word scumbag. They can show kids being crushed to death and whine about the amount of people needlessly killed on our roads every year, but using the word 'scumbag' - well, that's going too far. They wouldn't want to offend anyone.

The likelihood of me killing a kid this morning as I drive 40mph up a 20mph street? Highly unlikely. The likelihood of people thinking I'm a scumbag for doing that? Fairly likely.