In 2014, Volkwagen premiered their “Eyes On The Road” campaign, which was unveiled on unsuspecting movie-goers in cinemas in Hong Kong. The German automaker created a clever stunt that was half public service announcement and half engagement marketing to convince drivers to keep their eyes on the road while driving.

This is how it happened: As movie-goers began settling into their seats with their popcorns and sodas, a location-based broadcaster identified their phones. Soon, the screen lit up and the inside of a car with a driver revving up the engine appeared. The driver turned the music on and started to drive down a long road lined on either side by trees. The road is shown through the point of view of the driver. The location-based broadcaster was then used to send a message to everyone in the cinema. Phones chimed everywhere. As the movie-goers took their phones out, the sound of skidding wheels and shattering glass echoed through the room. Everyone gasped and looked up from their phones. The car on the screen had crashed into the trees. The movie-goers wore shocked expressions on their faces. A message appeared on the screen. “Mobile use is now the leading cause of death behind the wheel. A reminder to keep your eyes on the road”. It was followed by the Volkswagen logo.

This isn’t the first time Volkswagen has tried to warn drivers of the dangers of texting and driving. In Cape Town, South Africa, Volkswagen created a poster advertisement with Oglivy Cape Town that simply read “I’ll be there in a wh” and then showed iPhone’s predictive text, a function that suggests words to you as you type, proposing “while” or “wheelchair”. Another poster read “See you n” with “now” or”never” as the predicted words. “I’m in tr” had “traffic” or “trauma” as recommendations. It was accompanied with the line “Please don’t text and drive” and Volkswagen’s logo.

However, the “Eyes On The Road” campaign was the most impactful campaign. Many were impressed. Others were scared or angry. OglivyOne Beijing was behind the concept and execution of the brilliant advertisement. The agency shared a video of it which went viral and is all over YouTube now. It was viewed 25 million times. Many websites picked up on it. The advertisement unfortunately faced legal action for allegedly ripping off a five-year old ad campaign from ad agency Happiness Brussels. This was reported by The Guardian. The Daily Mail’s article speculated that it was made to generate buzz for Volkwagen’s XL1, which was marketed as the world’s most fuel-efficient car at the time.

The “Eyes On The Road” campaign was a powerful advertisement and definitely one of the coolest experiential marketing campaigns ever created. More importantly, however, it was necessary. A study has found that texting makes a crash up to 23 times more likely. Apparently, at any given time throughout the day, approximately 660, 000 drivers are attempting to use their phones while driving. These are alarming statistics and should be heeded. Volkswagen’s cinema stunt was a timely reminder of how dangerous distracted driving can be.

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