Australian Road Trip Ends Badly for You, and Horribly for Your Facebook Friend

TAC's sobering interactive PSA

The Transport Accident Commission of Victoria in Australia hits the road once again to promote safe driving. TAC has taken many different, well, tacks in its previous efforts—ranging from goofy humor to wretched depression and all-out shockvertising.

"Roadtrip Forever," created by media firm SCA, constitutes a change of direction in form, though not function, as safety education remains the goal, with teens and young adults the target. There are traditional elements, including TV and radio, but its centerpiece is an immersive, highly personalized Facebook experience that lets you log in and pick one of your FB friends to take on a three-minute virtual road trip. Well-crafted cinematic video storytelling is skillfully intercut with bogus status updates and chats involving your various friends. Men experience one trip; women another. Since TAC is the advertiser, it's not giving anything away to say that both journeys end in vehicular tragedy.

"The core idea is to make sure it has an impact, and that at the end of it the user goes, 'Whoa!' " SCA creative director Angus Stevens says in a behind-the-scenes clip. If the campaign alters the way they drive and inspires young people to share the Facebook experience with peers, all the better, he says.

I'm not sure any TCA effort could have as much impact, literally or figuratively, as the "Swap" commercial from a few years back. But "Roadtrip Forever" does pack a punch, albeit in an eerie, thoughtful, almost melancholy way, rather than through sudden shocks or blood and guts. (Sure, it's manipulative, but most PSA efforts of this type are, and the personalized Facebook approach gives "Roadtrip Forever" a more "realistic" immediacy that others lack.)

The first-view "Whoa!" factor does depend, to some extent, on surprise. Still, taking the trip a second time, even when you know what's coming, doesn't significantly dampen the effect. This particular drive delivers on multiple viewings and actually gains emotional resonance as details and nuances begin to register more deeply.

If there's a flaw, it's the basic concept of letting users choose their road-trip companions. Plugging in a beloved friend yields a sad, moving journey. Choosing a "friend" you don't know so well, or picking someone you don't really like—and we all have plenty of those among our FB connections—cushions the impact considerably.

Via Adverve.

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.