This Cringe-Worthy PSA Tackles Highway Safety in the Worst Possible Way

This Cringe-Worthy PSA Tackles Highway Safety in the Worst Possible Way
Source: YouTube
Source: YouTube

If one advertisement about child death goes over poorly with a nation, you'd expect other organizations to take a pause with another. Not the Colorado Department of Transportation, which apparently learned no lessons from the poorly received Super Bowl ad from Nationwide Insurance.

In a new PSA for the national Toward Zero Deaths campaign uploaded to CDOT's YouTube channel, a family of three — two parents plus a small child — learn the fatality rate on Colorado roads in a year. When they express relief that the number (480) isn't higher, suddenly, the number ticks up one more. 

Source: Mic/YouTube
Source: Mic/YouTube
Source: Mic/YouTube

"I'm so sorry," the parents are told after their child disappears. Then, accompanied by the mother's scream, there's a smash cut to a wrecked car — the implication being their child was also an auto fatality victim.

Source: YouTube

It's a powerful message, but mostly a misguided one. As shown by the almost universal backlash to the Nationwide ad in February, using child death as a motivating factor in a PSA is a non-starter. It's seen as tacky, to say the least, but also opportunistic and morally dicey.

The circumstances here are a bit different: CDOT isn't selling anything, so the ad doesn't have the same tone of extortion. Not only that, but the Toward Zero Deaths campaign is working towards a positive goal for all. But CDOT shared that important message in the worst medium. Shock value is a powerful and attention-grabbing measure, but it shouldn't come at the cost of your cause's credibility.

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Kevin O'Keeffe

Kevin is the arts editor at Mic, writing about inclusion and representation in pop culture. He is based in New York and can be reached at kevin@mic.com.

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