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Advertising Students Introduce Distract Driving Campaign At U Of U

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — When you hear that beep or buzz, it’s difficult to avoid the temptation to look at your phone. Students at the University of Utah recognize that and they’re joining forces with the Utah Department of Transportation to introduce a new campaign targeting distracted driving — with an eight-foot-tall cell phone.

“Almost 3,500 people are killed every year because of distractions,” said UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras.

It’s a devastating number, but sadly students at the U think the message is falling on deaf ears.

“We’ve heard messaging our whole lives about distracted driving and texting and driving. So we had to find a new approach,” said Kyra Ott, creative director of the university’s student-run ad agency named AdThing.

The agency is targeting the biggest culprit of distracted driving in a new campaign.

“We figured what better way to deliver that message than on a cell phone? Better yet a giant cell phone?” Ott said.

AdThing worked with the Zero Fatalities team to build a giant, eight-foot-tall cell phone that displays staggering statistics on the screen.

University of Utah advertising students introduced a new distracted driving campaign with an eight-foot-tall cell phone.

Ott said they’re directing the messaging towards passengers — not just drivers. They hope this removes the stigma around asking the driver to put their phone down.

“Our idea was to target the passengers and have them say, ‘You drive and I’ll text, you drive and I’ll post, you drive and I’ll email,’” Ott said.

University of Utah student Millie Heiner admitted she’s felt uncomfortable sitting in the passenger seat before.

“When you see your friend, who’s the driver, on their phone, it’s more scary. You’re like, ‘Oh, no!’” she said.

But Heiner said she isn’t afraid to take charge. “We usually have a designated person in the passenger seat who’s in charge of navigation and DJing,” she said.

Braceras hopes this student-run message will reach other students.

“They’re hearing it from somebody that knows the world the same way they know it,” he said. “Now, if somebody from different generations says the same message, they’re going to probably say, ‘Well, but you don’t understand me. You don’t understand what I’m dealing with. I’m really good at texting.’”

He hopes this campaign also encourages actual behavior change.

“I’ve got a friend at work, who actually takes his phone and puts it in the trunk so he’s not distracted … and that’s a very deliberate activity,” Braceras said.

He reminded drivers if they pick up their phone, they’re also putting others’ lives at risk.

“Nothing you do in your life is more important than when you’re behind the wheel of a car,” he said.

The giant cell phone is on display at the student union building at the University of Utah as a reminder for students — and all Utah drivers — to put their phones down.

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