SafetyAtWorkBlog has received some terrific comments on the various marketing strategies for addressing the safety of young people at work and in their private (public) lives.
A colleague of mine in Western Australia remains sceptical of the type of imagery employed but below are two other comments:
” thanks for your posting on the alcohol campaign, you are quite correct – these are the kinds of advertisements that connect with the younger set – they have grown up in a world of gore (video games, movies, TV shows that show more and more). Older people don’t understand this – just a generation gap thing.”
“I think it is an excellent way to reach our youth. If it only saves one teenager from a life of over-drinking or saves one innocent life on a highway, it has met the purpose.”
As with many safety campaigns, the measurements of success are often difficult to find. OHS regulators point to declining fatality and injury figures but these, sometimes, don’t stand up to scrutiny. With awareness campaigns of this type, performance indicators are crucial, and should be reported publicly.
Branding strategies are okay but their aims are limited and raising one’s awareness of something does not, in itself, change behaviour. Awareness needs an extra spur for action to occur. That is why I look forward to the next stages of these campaigns. Let’s hope they build on their good work rather than tweaking a failing strategy.
SafetyAtWorkBlog has mentioned several campaigns recently focusing on promoting safety to young people through graphic ads in Australia and Canada, and enticing websites. The Queensland Government launched a promotional campaign to the same demographics this week but this one focuses on excessive, or binge, drinking. This is timely leading into the Christmas season and Summer in the Southern Hemisphere and it should be successful in its first stage of cinema advertising and social marketing. The campaign has a similar advertising structure to the graphic OHS ads but depicting a young person undertaking an activity and suddenly switching to an unexpected consequence. A spokesperson for the Every Dr1nk Counts campaign in Queensland’s Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing told SafetyAtWorkBlog that the videos are initially shown only in cinemas on targeted movie sessions as the viewer is unable to avoid the 45 second images as easily as they can a television ad. Also, cinema ads will be seen by the target audience in a group of their peers which will encourage discussion on the issues raised. The ads are confronting but are well made and subversive in getting one’s attention. Treasurer and Liquor Licensing minister Andrew Fraser said that
“This advertisement highlights the fatal consequences of excessive drinking in the hope that young adults will take notice and make more responsible choices for their futures.”
Minister Fraser also said
“our focus group research also revealed that many young people don’t realise that one stubby or one alco-pop is usually more than one drink. We are not asking young people to stop drinking, we are just asking them to recognise that there are worse consequences than a hangover.”
The correlation to youth marketing is clearly evident but excessive drinking and the associated culture of alcohol consumption is a problem that many workplaces are facing also. It is common in some industries to have a worker be unfit for work after a heavy night and for alcohol and drug policies to be introduced and enforced. There are bound to be some OHS Managers and workplaces who will see the benefit of obtaining some of the Every Dr1nk Counts resources in an workplace context.
Several colleagues have pointed to a young worker safety website that was established in Canada several years ago, http://www.notworthit.ca/ . The site, part of the WCB’s Young Worker campaign, won an award from American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds in their annual Communications Awards in 2007.
There are remarkable similarities to The Pain Factory, even to the point of encoruaging young workers to tell their own stories. The similarity is, perhaps, justified when considering the safety message is aimed at the same demographics, however it shows that originality is rare in occupational health and safety promotions. Certainly the use of internet videos is a marked difference between the sites but the success of NotWorthIt should be remembered if The Pain Factory is also put forward for advertising or communications awards.
WorkSafe CEO, John Merrit is a strong advocate of his organisation’s young worker campaign.
One of the most popular recent postings at SafetyAtWorkBlog has concerned the graphic ads aimed at young workers by WorkSafe Victoria. Last week a safety group meeting was told that WorkSafe focus groups of teenagers had said that to get the attention of young people on workplace safety, advertisements needed to be graphic and confrontational.
“Feedback from young workers taken recently indicates the message they are taking from the ads is that if you get injured at work it is your fault. They paint a very negative stereotype of young workers.”
Trades Hall also reveals that WorkSafe’s own research does not necessarily fit with some of the current WorkSafe language:
“Research conducted for WorkSafe by Sweeneys in April this year does not demonstrate that young workers are ‘apathetic’. Rather it advises that young workers:
lack knowledge of their rights at work, what to do if they got injured, and of IR and OH&S issues;
mimic the behaviour and attitudes they observe around them from older workers and supervisors;
had a general reluctance to speak up or ask question because they are intimidated and worried about losing their job or think their boss will think they’re stupid;
are perceived as apathetic or arrogant by employers, which the research noted was due to young workers being too intimidated and worried about looking stupid to speak up.”
It seems that the WorkSafe Victoria ads are not available on Youtube but the Canadian WSIB ads are. It is worth reading some of the comments posted under the videos to see what a small section of Youtube viewers, presumably the “Youtube generation” the ads are aimed at, think of the ads.
Given that next week is Safe Work Australia Week and WorkSafe Victoria is likely to promote the young worker ads as a cornerstone of its safety promotions campaign, it is worth trying to listen behind, or between, the good news to determine if the campaign will, in reality, achieve the aims of reducing young worker deaths and injuries.
Recent satirical television shows, such as The Hollowmen, have shown a possible manipulation of focus groups in a similar way that the production of departmental reviews were shown to be politically influenced in Yes Prime Minister. Focus groups and market research may be the best techniques we have but that doesn’t mean that the findings should be uncritically accepted.
Twenty years ago, I was at a FutureSafe conference in Sydney, Australia, where Eileen McMahon of WorkSafe Victoria showed a series of graphic ads. The audience were impressed and roundly supported the use of such ads in their own States.
At the time confronting ads were de rigueur as road safety campaigns had been using the same technique for a while. Ads from both government authorities won critical acclaim and many awards.
The Australian ads have emphasised the lack of information and induction provided to young workers. Rather than having the incident victim talk to the camera, WorkSafe emphasises the confused thought processes of a young person in a bakery being unsure of how to operate a machine safely, a young man experiments with a nailgun, and a young person scalded in a commercial kitchen.
In The Sunday Age, WorkSafe CEO, John Merritt, said that the graphic content was to gain the attention of young workers:
“It’s confronting, it’s not pleasant, but young workers have challenged us to confront them with the reality of what happens…”
“The guts of this campaign is to say to young workers: for goodness sake, if you’re not sure about something, speak up.”
“”It was clear from the research that nothing else would have impact.”
Media reports make no acknowledgement of the Canadian campaign which seems a little odd given the similarities of the kitchen-based ad, in particular.
The challenge of this type of ad is to run it for just long enough to make an impact but not so long that viewers get “graphic fatigue” – particularly important for appealing to young workers. This is also a lesson that should have been learnt from the original WorkSafe ads a couple of decades ago. The combination of both a workplace safety campaign and road safety campaign using the same techniques limited the effectiveness of both.
There is no doubt about the validity of the safety risks in WorkSafe’s target market but it is vital that these ads be balanced with the more gentle and parent-friendly “homecoming” ads and the workplace inspector ads aimed at business operators. All three should be broadcast over the same period in order to provide the broadest context and the one that reflects the reality.
Clearly, the WorkSafe ad campaign is intended to maximise the retirn on the advertising budget by generating media debate. This was vrtually acknowedlged by John Merritt when he said
“There will undoubtedly be a conversation and a debate about that message.”
A danger with this tactic is that the ads become the story rather than people discussing the safety of young workers. Let’s watch who supports the ads and who criticises.