'Don't tune out': Violent pedestrian safety ad intended to hit hard

Nicholas McCallum and Ashlea Brown

With road deaths on the increase in Australia, a new confronting commercial is intended to shock pedestrians into paying attention on our streets.

The hard-hitting ad from the Pedestrian Council of Australia shows a young woman walking down the footpath of a suburban street.

Engrossed in her phone and wearing headphones, the woman makes the fatal mistake of stepping out on to the street without looking both ways.

A car strikes her, the impact playing out in full view while the tune she was playing is cut short along with her life.

The young woman is engrossed in her phone, like so many young pedestrians. Source: PCA

The thud of meat on metal and the screech of tyres cut to black along a simple message.

"Don't tune out."

The lobby group's spokesman Harold Scruby said the ad is intended to shock and believes it will save lives.

"This is the most powerful ad we've ever done," he told 7 News Online.

"Everyone who's seen it is pretty shocked by it."

A previous 'Don't tune out' ad from the council. Source: PCA

The commercial follows a theme trotted out over the past few years, the message delivered with more force in each reprise.

The PCA's "Don't Tune Out" line was used in 2010's "Lambs to the slaughter" awareness campaign.

Its website states the ad was targeting the "many pedestrians who often act like sheep when crossing the road, particularly at traffic lights" with many blithely crossing while "listening to iPods & MP3 players, texting or using mobile phones".

'Mock advertising': The PCA tried to get pedestrians to wake up seven years ago. Source: PCA

"When one sheep walks the rest follow without stopping, looking and listening," it added.

Mr Scruby described the early campaign as "mock advertising" but the PCA has stepped up to "shock advertising".

And pedestrians and drivers need to be shocked. Road fatalities have been increasing in recent years, with pedestrian deaths jumping from 162 in 2015 to 185 in 2016.

Young pedestrians in particular, like the woman shown in the ad, are far more likely to walk into a world of pain – or death – because they are concentrating on their phones.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said while graphic ads have impact they are not always far reaching and long term.

"Not everyone responds to shock," he said.

Of particular note, Mr Khoury said, the infamous "pinky" ad that shocked older Australians with its crude message but cut through with its target audience – young males with something to prove behind the wheel.

"Not to say there is no place for shock, but different groups that respond to different groups of advertising."

Mr Khoury suggested a diverse message campaign that is followed up with more ads is the best way to get a message across.

Sydney University marketing expert Dr Rohan Miller doubted the ad's message would cut through.

"It's just really hard, too hard in fact to change habitual behaviours like talking on your phone and listening to music," he said.

Mr Scruby remains unapologetic and believes the ad will work.

"If it saves one life I don't care how confronting it is," he said. "I believe this will save lives."