Georgina Guedes

Drive dry or pay the price

2012-06-07 14:53

Georgina Guedes

I had dinner with a couple of friends at Botega in Parkhurst on Monday night. I hadn't seen most of this crowd in a while, having been home with small children for about three years, and it was a pleasant and low-key way to catch up with them. They were all doing well and all seemed to have mellowed since last I hung with them.

One thing that I noted was that those who were driving weren't drinking, and those who were drinking had no intention of driving home. When this point was raised, they mentioned that drunk driving apprehensions had skyrocketed, especially in the Parks, and it just wasn't worth the risk anymore.

Although the South African Police should be congratulated on their hard stance against drunk drivers, it's still a pity that it's the fear of being caught, rather than the fear or harming others (or themselves) that finally convinced people not to mix alcohol and petrol in a dangerous cocktail. But I suppose that a large portion of the population is driven by fear of being caught rather than the moral imperative.

Advertising juxtaposition

My head brimming with such thoughts, I made my way to the bathroom, where I noticed an advertising juxtaposition failure of epic proportions. In the loo was one of those backlit advertising boxes. Three ads were projected from of the box in alternation.

The first two ads were from the “Drive Dry” campaign, which again urges drivers to avoid drunk driving out fear. The first is of a leering, skinny man in prison overalls, with bedroom eyes. The pay-off line is that he “can't wait to meet you”. For the purposes of brevity I'll overlook the fact that lawless activity is being discouraged with the threat of lawless activity, since it's probably the reality of living in South Africa.

In the second ad, a tow truck beefcake is holding his door open to the viewer, essentially offering them a lift because they've totalled their car. The two ads are pretty good deterrents for anyone who might be sitting on the fence about getting behind the wheel in an inebriated state.

Then the third image pops up. It's an ad promoting Olmeca tequila. Following those two other bits of marketing genius, this promotion didn't give me too much impetus to go running from the loo and lining up a series of shot glasses on the bar.

Marketing vices

Granted, the ad might have been aimed at the patrons who were being driven home by friends or friendly taxi drivers, but the positioning of the beach-view and blue-skies poster after two pretty powerful discouragements from hitting the bottle was a bit laughable.

But I suppose that's the inherent nature of marketing vices. Like cigarette boxes that cheerfully threaten to kill you if you keep using their contents, alcohol advertising has to claim its place among the messages that threaten the worst should you drink it.

All of which brings me back to the conclusion that each individual will make his or her own moral choice in the face of conflicting messages. For me, it's the possibility of costing someone – or myself – a life that keeps me sober behind the wheel. And I suppose I wouldn't like to meet the prison rapist or towtruck driver either, truth be told.  

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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