Sask. anti-drunk-driving campaign reviewed

Saskatchewan's vehicle insurer is revisiting its anti-drunk-driving campaign to try to reduce the number of crashes involving alcohol.

Saskatchewan's vehicle insurer is revisiting its anti-drunk-driving campaign to try to reduce the number of crashes involving alcohol.

In 2008, SGI spent almost $690,000 on television, radio and print advertising against drinking and driving.

But the agency says the message may not be getting through because that same year, the number of drunk-driving incidents jumped in the province.

According to SGI, alcohol was a factor in 63 fatal collisions in 2008 — a 46.5 per cent increase over the previous three-year average. Alcohol-related crashes that caused injuries jumped 21.8 per cent last year — to 929.

The rising numbers are a frustration to the person responsible for SGI's anti-drunk-driving campaign.

"We do so much to try and address the issue, thinking that we are bringing that number down," Shannon Ell, SGI's manager of traffic safety promotion, told CBC News.

"And then when you get your collision statistics and you see it's going the other way, it's really hard to figure out why. What are we doing that's not getting through to people? I don't know."

SGI's advertising campaign scores well, however, in a study by researchers at the University of Regina.

The study, which appears in the latest edition of the journal International Marketing Review, looked at 25 anti-drunk-driving programs or campaigns in five countries, including Canada.

Magdalena Cismaru, a marketing professor at the University of Regina and one of the study's authors, told CBC News that SGI's ad campaign conveys the right message.

In one television ad, called "Work Hard-Play Hard," two separate groups of male friends enjoy an after-work drink at the bar. Two of the men leave the bar and are just about to slip into their vehicles.

"You'd never throw it all away by driving after a few drinks, would you?" says a booming voice in the ad. The men pause for a few seconds, before both pocket their keys and walk away from their vehicles. One walks to his friends to get a lift, the other joins friends in a taxi.

"From a social-marketing perspective, the way they advertise to people is the right way to go. They do provide alternatives to people drinking and driving," Cismaru told CBC News on Monday.

Cismaru said it is difficult to pinpoint why alcohol-related crashes increased in Saskatchewan in 2008, despite the presence of a strong advertising campaign, because other factors play a role, such as more vehicles on the road, changes in weather conditions and new laws.

SGI said its new anti-drunk-driving campaign will launch this fall.