A couple of years ago I was invited to speak at a conference on the subject of public information advertising, and prior to do so needed to think of a pertinent viewpoint.
Something interesting to stir debate, or at least, avoid people nodding off to sleep (especially if I was pencilled in for the after-lunch slot).
Now it so happened this was a timely invitation, because I had long been harbouring a viewpoint I wanted to get off my chest.
And that is to do with the lack of strategy which is apparent with so many public information campaigns.
In Hong Kong at least, it seems that when the government wants the public to do something, or stop doing something, it runs a campaign telling them to do it, or stop doing it. Simply. Usually with a jingle involved.
Please drive carefully. Say no to drugs. Switch off idling engines. Report illegal structures. Etc etc.
All of which seems completely ignorant of the fact that advertising, the art of persuasion, often works on psychological levels.
Whether it’s the desire created through seductive branding, or promotional campaigns seeking to stimulate action, there has to be a strategy.
You can’t simply tell people to do something, you need to give them a reason to do so. Or at least provoke them into thinking about doing it.
Like road safety. It’s not enough to say ‘Our goal is zero road accidents, please join us.’ Because that means nothing to an angry, crazy van or minibus driver who thinks the city streets are a video game. It won’t even register on his mental radar. Yet, he’s a prime offender probably.
Telling drug users to ‘Say no to drugs’ is no more effective than telling them to get a haircut. What needs to be highlighted to them, are facts that will deter them. The damage drugs can do to their lives. What it will mean in the long term.
That goes for anti-smoking campaigns. Or road safety. Or corruption. Or anything whereby the aim is to influence public behavior.
Good effective public information advertising should appeal to your mind. Should make you react and think. It can’t actually make you do anything. But at least it make you consider what you are doing.
Anything without a strategy, without an idea which will be measured against clear objectives, is a waste of money.
So why do we see so much of it?