- Associated Press - Thursday, December 11, 2014

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The Department of Public Safety knows that its new “Don’t Jerk and Drive” ad campaign has a salacious double meaning.

It’s supposed to.

If they didn’t make you gasp or giggle, the ads wouldn’t grab your attention.

Without your attention, you might not linger long enough to catch the actual message: Jerking on the steering wheel when your vehicle’s tires slip off the edge of an icy road - overcorrecting, as it’s more blandly known - can kill you.

“There are hundreds of people who would be alive today if they hadn’t jerked the wheel,” DPS Director Lee Axdahl told the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1yDzafk ). “The message is that we’d prefer drivers keep their cars out of the ditch and their minds out of the gutter.”

The “jerk” campaign plays on the word’s multiple meanings - its euphemistic reference to masturbation - on multiple platforms.

The television ad features an animated graphic of a driver spinning into other vehicles after jerking the wheel. The “proper” way to handle the situation is to slowly pull back onto the road, a narrator explains in a posh British accent.

“Overcorrecting only results in chaos. And besides - nobody likes a jerker,” she says.

The part of the campaign that’s garnered the most attention so far is the #DontJerkAndDrive hashtag, pushed out through social media. That wording might not sit well with everyone, but the message isn’t meant for everyone, either.

That particular portion of the $100,000 campaign - a figure Axdahl calls “a drop in the bucket” - targets young men, as they’re the drivers most likely to overcorrect and cause fatal traffic accidents.

Young men are notoriously difficult to reach, said Micah Aberson, one of the strategists with Lawrence & Schiller, who devised the campaign.

“When the repercussion of our message not getting through could be a fatality, the stakes are high,” said Aberson, who also worked on the DPS’s #SoberSelfie and #WhyIBuckle social media campaigns. “We are adamant in our pursuit of campaigns that break through the clutter in a crowded media landscape to a target an audience that’s difficult to reach.”

The early results are impressive.

More than 16,000 people saw the campaign on Twitter in its first week. Page views at the DPS’s Facebook page have jumped to nearly 30,000 since the campaign launched, outperforming previous public safety campaigns 25 to 1.

More telling is the number of people who’ve interacted with the sponsored tweets, either by retweeting a message or commenting on it and passing it along to their followers.

The ad industry average for interaction in sponsored tweets is between 1 percent and 3 percent. The “Jerk” campaign’s sponsored tweets have a 6.9 percent interaction rate.

Many of the people on Twitter who’ve used the hashtag have expressed shock over the double meaning, wondering in the online forum if the state was aware of the sexually explicit double entendre.

Others wondered when late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon would pick up on the joke.

Bryan Ruby, owner of the web consulting business CMS Report, was impressed with the campaign from a marketing standpoint. Online, he called it “brilliant.”

“I thought it was a bold move for the state of South Dakota,” Ruby said in a telephone interview. “It definitely requires a sense of humor, and that’s the risk you’re taking. But if the point is to get the message out, this does it.”

The campaign did give Axdahl pause. Every hard-hitting campaign does, he said. If a campaign forces people to re-evaluate behavior that kills, he said, it’s worth the risk.

“It’s those instinctive things that we have to change. Getting those messages out is tough,” Axdahl said. “If we can use a compact slogan to drive people to our Highway Patrol website, I’m happy about that.”


Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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