Published in the NBR.

CAANZ judging panel: Blazed: Getting the inside dope

Posted 11 April 2014.

​​For advertising campaigns, being remembered isn’t enough. You’ve got to get into an audience’s mind and their conversations. Even more importantly, it’s also got to be effective for the client.

After all, advertising is littered with campaigns that got people talking but didn’t shift the bottom line an inch.

One campaign that ticks all the boxes is “Blazed.” That’s why the eight executive judges at the recent CAANZ Axis awards selected it for the ‘Grand Axis.

Created by Clemenger BBDO for the New Zealand Transport Agency to target drug-affected driving, it was based on recent research from an Environment, Science and Research report highlighting New Zealand’s culture of people driving under the influence of marijuana.

Results from a national poll in 2012 indicated that 32% of people believe it is safe to smoke cannabis and then drive. This attitude is supported by comments on social media defending driving while stoned.

Further to the poll, the latest New Zealand Alcohol and Drug Use Survey found Maori men and women were over 50% more likely to have used cannabis in the previous year than the general population.

The campaign targeted people who believe they’re OK to drive after using cannabis. Many who use cannabis believe the drug has little effect on their driving, or that the drug makes them a safer driver as they feel more focused and drive slower when under the influence. These people do not consider their behaviour a road safety issue.

Clemenger BBDO executive creative director Philip Andrew explains, “The campaign needed to sow a seed of doubt with these drivers, and get them to start to question their own behaviour behind the wheel.”

With marijuana being an illegal drug, and the government as the author of the message, it was a challenge to create a credible, personable and non-judgmental story.

“We couldn’t condone drug taking, nor could we come across as prohibitionists or we would lose most drug users immediately. Marijuana affects people in different ways so we needed to find a way to show stoned behaviour that was realistic, with little room for people to opt out.

“We knew we needed to use language and humour that was disarming, not patronising. Plus, we needed to leverage the power of peer-to-peer communications to get the message spread to the right people; in short, we needed Maori to own this message themselves and share it with their whanau.”

The way cannabis is discussed and integrated into the lives of smokers varies markedly between different groups. “To achieve cut-through and credibility, our messages needed to use scenarios and language that fit with a specific audience,” says Mr Andrew.

“While the ‘Blazed’ campaign targets a broad New Zealand audience, it specifically needed to reach Maori. We worked closely with Maori Television and director Taika Waititi to develop a message that would resonate strongly with Maori,”

The creative approach used kids as “experts” in observing whanau (particularly dads) who drive under the influence of cannabis. By seeing their actions through their kids’ eyes, parents were challenged to ask themselves, “If it’s obvious to my loved ones that I’m stoned, am I really safe to drive?”

“Rather than creating a television ad that would feel like a government PSA, we chose to create a short film that would feel more as though it came from the community.”

As with many great campaigns, significant thought was given to the messaging and creative approach. What makes “Blazed” stand out is the inspired and beautifully crafted execution that resonated with the target audience. Brilliant performances from young Kiwi talent, expertly directed by award-winning director, Taika Waititi, as well as a light, humorous approach, made it a story that people wanted to
share. More importantly, the kids’ disarming mockery was believable and prompted fathers to start questioning their own behaviour.

A bespoke “television special” slot was negotiated with Maori Television for the two minute 20 second black and white film to be aired. Presenters introduced “Blazed” during the season finale of the channel’s popular show, Homai te pakipak’. Presenter ad-libs drove traffic to Maori Television’s YouTube channel.

Enormously successful, the ad ran just 12 times on Maori Television and was seeded on YouTube. There was no other paid media. Its success relied on a small audience loving and sharing the content. The ad went viral, generating a million views in just over a week. Global sharing made news at home, encouraging even more coverage. The earned media eventually provided 42 times more exposure than
paid-for media.

“Blazed” has helped transform the drug driving debate. Comments have changed from being neutral or negative to be being 90% positive, and Kiwis have started questioning whether it really is safe to drive stoned. Forty percent of people surveyed recently said it had changed their attitude toward driving drugged.