Release Date: July 16, 2009
Media Contact: Dale Johnson, External Relations
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New University of Regina study explores the effectiveness of anti-drinking and driving campaigns

Researchers at the University of Regina recently published a study that explores the effectiveness of anti-drinking and driving campaigns in five countries: Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

For the study, lead researcher business professor Magdalena Cismaru, Dean of the Faculty of Business Administration, Anne Lavack, and graduate student Evan Markewich compared 25 campaigns to a model called the Protection Motivation Theory (PMT).

This theory emphasizes that social marketing campaigns - like those for anti-drinking and driving - not only need to stress the severity and the likelihood of negative consequences of people's poor choices, but also provide a recommended course of action that is not too costly in terms of time, money, and energy. The campaigns also need to convince people that they can successfully carry out the desired action to keep themselves out of harm's way.

"To be persuaded to take action, people have to feel that they are vulnerable and that this could really happen to them," explains Lavack. "They also have to believe that the action being recommended is going to work. In other words, when they receive advice about how to avoid drinking and driving, they have to believe that they will be able to carry it out."

Alternatives such as taking a taxi home instead of driving impaired, for example, might work for some but could be perceived as a non-realistic alternative for those who live in a rural area miles away from where they are.

"It is not enough to tell people how to avoid drinking and driving in some ads; instead, it is important to actually provide people with easy ways to avoid drinking and driving," says Cismaru. For example, providing free or low costs bus rides to and from an outdoor concert or festival which involves alcohol drinking constitutes a great way to reduce people's costs and encouraging them to avoid drinking and driving."

The researchers also discovered that, of the five countries studied, Canada has the largest number of different anti-drinking and driving campaigns as well as a lower fatality rate per 100,000 people when compared to the United States. Canada also seems to produce some of the most effective ads.

Compared with the other countries studied, Australia and New Zealand tended to focus ads on the severity of the consequences of drinking and driving and making viewers feel vulnerable. These ads, however, did not provide viewers with effective ways to avoid the consequences of drinking and driving or reassure viewers that they can take steps to keep themselves safe.

"In Canada and the US we are much better at telling people what to do to avoid the problem: have a designated driver, take public transportation, take a taxi, stay overnight," says Lavack.

Lavack will present the research findings at the World Marketing Congress taking place next week in Norway. The study, "Social marketing campaigns aimed at preventing drunk driving: A review and recommendations," can be found in International Marketing Review at the Emerald journal web site at: