The Victorian police force, in conjunction with TAC, busted out a new promotional advertising campaign this holiday season in order to remind people that it's a bad idea to drive around with the top down after guzzling down too many cocktails at the work Christmas party, only to puke in the one pot plant that's actually plastic. You guessed it, the enemy of the summer of fun, 2013, is driving whilst intoxicated.
I have no qualms with this whatsoever. Drinking and driving is the kind of hobby that a Darwin Award candidate lists at a hobby on their eHarmony file, right before they hitchhike to a blind date. I'm all for any campaign that encourages people to drink responsibly and drive safely. It's not the seventies anymore, and "I'll just take the back streets" isn't cute.
That said, VicPo totally hired the wrong promotional team to get the message across this time. Envisage, if you will, a slow-motion, dark-hued, almost action movie-style cinematography, with a stern tenor intoning "This holiday season, the police are throwing a party" with all the ominousness of a Bond villain in the moments before a big reveal. That is the benchmark of silliness the advertisement sets, and it comes crashing down shortly thereafter. Brace yourself for a metaphor that is butchered so artlessly that it relinquishes any meaning that it may have had.
I can't wait to see how they cater dip and carrot sticks for that.
"There will be dress-ups-"
Cut to someone putting on that fluoro vest thingy that somehow never seems to make it into novelty Sexy Cop costume kits.
I must have missed the memo, but apparently hats are mandatory for parties now. Like, fedoras? Straw boaters? I feel suddenly underdressed.
"-Some people will get a written invitation-"
But how can that be when the party's clearly already started? And why does the bearded driver from the advertisement look so sad to receive one?
"Of course, they'll be keeping an eye on numbers-"
What do you mean, 'of course'? We just established that EVERYONE is invited.
"-And checking I.D.'s."
That seems somewhat difficult to do if you've already invited everyone. Which you did.
"There'll be loud music-"
Does this mean the police band 'Code One' is no longer being shut down as part of budget cuts?
Doesn't sound too bad, actually.
"-And lots of photos."
Emphasis totally not my own. You can practically hear the narrator congratulate himself on executing the perfect level of pathos right there.
I could keep going, but at this stage I've made it 33 seconds through a one minute video and I'm going to need a scotch and Coke before I can even think about the next part. Which probably isn't such a good sign for how I'm interpreting these advertisements, because now my understanding is that drink driving is a police-mandated, glow-stick-riddled rave cave waiting to happen. And you, too, can have it... If you're just brave enough to reach out and crack that beer whilst flicking the dome light above your rear-view mirror for the perfect party vibe.
But alas, all cringeworthy videos must eventually come to an end. I hold out for the punchline. The overarching message. The one that will set me to quaking in my boots despite the audio, when isolated, promising a rollicking good bit of family fun. But wait, confusion! The slogan is "The Party's Over". And I am left confused.
This advertisement has inadvertently promised drink drivers some golden good times, and yanked this promise out from beneath them, not unlike that time I tried to do the "pull the tablecloth away without disturbing the food on top" trick. And like myself on that occasion, TAC have been left with egg on their faces.
If the police wanted to frighten people away from drink-driving, perhaps the prospect should not have been pitched as the kickass social event of the season. After all, the metaphor of the fun-sponge police officers coming by to break up a house party is so ingrained in pop culture, even I've caught myself in tipsy moments planning my escape from the venue in case the police rock up... and that's not even a thing in Australia.
To be fair, maybe it's because my parties aren't hardcore enough to be allocated police resources. A large portion of my Breaking Bad fandom was spent ruminating as to why Gus Fring have any interest in the meth world when he owns a lifetime supply of free fried chicken. I mean, isn't that the American dream? Alberquerque isn't far from Mexico, so you know that Los Pollos Hermanos' spicy chicken is destined to be the perfect amount of piquante. The whole drug thing, on top of that luxury? That's just being greedy. Although maybe that's my lack of street cred speaking.
But I digress. "The Party's Over"? Seriously? Way to alienate anyone who loosely likes the idea of "fun". One bad campaign is all it takes to undo any empathy for police officers that television shows like "Highway Patrol" work so hard to foster. The Average Joe's perspective flips from, "Geez, that hoon was acting like a jerk, wasn't he? The police really don't have an easy job." to "You wanna tread on my right to party? Screw you, guy!"
TAC misjudged their audience when they authorised an advertising campaign in the vein of a stern grandfather who has lost his train of thought mid-reprimand with this schizophrenic "We're throwing a party/the party's over" madness. And, like grandparenting, this moral lesson would probably go over better if it was framed more along the lines of something like this:
"Hey, we want you to have fun, but it can be dangerous out there, so just be careful, okay? Cool, love you."
I'm no statistician, but I'd bet money (one dogecoin. That someone else must mine for me because I don't know how to internet) that people would be more receptive to a message where they don't feel like they're being scolded by that one teacher in primary school who they hated.
If, to borrow a phrase from Mac in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the TAC approach was "laughs are cheap... I'm going for gasps!" maybe they should have gone for broke. I guarantee you, nobody would dare drink and drive after hearing the song "Limousine" by Brand New, and then hearing the story that inspired it. Though, to be fair, that's probably the equivalent of assuaging a child's fear of monsters under the bed by showing them American Horror Story, to show that there are far scarier things in the world than what's under a bed. Or perhaps it's just on my mind because I recently started watching American Horror story.
... Now I'm scared of the dark.
(A conversation with self:
"Did you just write over a thousand words relentlessly mocking a public health awareness campaign?"
"Hey. Not cool."
Whisper: "...I'm being a larrikin.")
Scarlett Hawkins writes novels... But in her spare time, she writes rants.