Opinion

Guest post: Safety ad treats bikers like drinkers and drug users

In this guest posting, motorbike rider Chris Hunter argues that Grey’s new road safety ad for TAC is money down the drain

Motorcyclists are resigned to getting a bad rap in Australia. But the latest shock-tactic motorcycle safety TVC has incensed many riders. Forums are running hot and letters are being fired off to editors.  

The ad shows five riders indulging in what appears to be ‘risky’ behaviour. In the final sequence, a bike mysteriously snaps sideways out of control while overtaking on a dry, well-surfaced road—flinging the rider into the path of an oncoming 4WD.

Grey Melbourne made this ad for the Transport Accident Commission. The production values are slick: Lance Kelleher of production company Curious and the guys at Postmodern have done a good job.

The strategy, according to the TAC’s Phil Reed, is to “reduce the number of motorcyclists killed and injured on our roads by engaging riders in a discussion about risk.”

Reed has certainly created discussion: the motorcycling community is enraged. And so is Tony Ellis of the Australian Motorcycle Council, an experienced safety expert who also sits on the Motorcycle Safety Consultative Committee.

Ellis has highlighted several technical errors in the ad and reckons it is “Probably the second worst motorcycle safety commercial” he’s seen. “I imagine the brief was really about scaring people away from riding and making sure that riders are all branded as hoons—not making a commercial that is credible to riders.”

It looks like the TAC is branding motorcyclists as dangerous road users who bring death upon themselves. In reality, motorcyclists carry more risk because they’re not encased in a steel safety cage. And despite the gruesome final scene in the ad, the TAC’s own figures show that just two out of the 43 riders who died on Victoria’s roads in 2008 were killed during overtaking manoeuvres.

It looks like the TAC doesn’t care for motorcyclists: it doesn’t feel like an ad from an organisation with riders’ interests at heart. It puts motorcyclists in the same bucket as drink-drivers and drug abusers. And because it doesn’t engage its audience in a positive way, it’s already failed.

Motorcyclists, instead of being receptive to critical safety messages, are ostracised. And car drivers, whose attitudes towards two-wheelers of any description are notoriously negative, are now given official sanction to believe that all motorcyclists are hoons or speed freaks.

It’s not clear whether this strategy came from the TAC, or was developed in conjunction with Grey. But whoever created it has made an expensive miscalculation.

I don’t know how much the ad cost to make, but it looks like $250,000 down the drain to me.

  • Chris Hunter is the Direct Creative Director at Lowe Sydney. He also runs Bike EXIF, a motorcycle culture and design website.
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