When to add a conversation to your campaign

I was pleased to spot Highways England’s advertising campaign on Twitter recently, targeting the middle-lane motorway hoggers that blight our daily drives. Using the hashtag #leftisright, the aim is to raise awareness of a growing anti-social issue and one that could cost drivers £100 or 3 points on their licence.

At least, I believe it’s the campaign’s aim. For a while I suspected that the advert may have even been faked – the poster doesn’t appear on the Highways England website – although I did find a press release where HE were targeting drivers in Cheshire. The social aspect is interesting however, because the hashtag isn’t really alive with lots of frustrated, largely lane-abiding drivers sharing the hashtag. I couldn’t locate the poster under the Highways England Twitter account either, so it still may not be theirs.

However, I wonder when, where and if our target audience will see the poster. The conversation may well be online, but however integrated the campaign may be, I can’t imagine a driver who suddenly realises that they’ve been languishing in the middle of a motorway for many years will suddenly take to Twitter to defend themselves. It’s also been claimed that the main culprits are older drivers, though not proven, who are even less likely to enter the debate online. So does that leave the social media conversation a place to lambaste those who don’t use it?

How do we reach those we need influence the most?

The hashtag is a call to action, and joining the conversation changes the campaign’s intent in my view. I think too many brands are dropping hashtags into their marketing without really understanding what they are for. Middle-lane hogging is hardly crime of the century, but it is certainly a cause of road rage and thus an open, inviting forum for abuse and venting disgust.

This year, the first conviction of a middle lane hogger took place, and the subsequent PR will help raise awareness. The legality of the situation gives it credibility. In that sense, the awareness campaign becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; convict more drivers of the crime and news of this may deter the abhorrent, or at least incredibly annoying, practice.

If HE’s campaign was indeed genuine, and I hope it is, then as part of a wider driver awareness campaign, the tone, imagery and claims hit the mark. Let’s just hope enough people see it.


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