Neon Drunk Driving Simulator
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Holmes Report
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Neon Drunk Driving Simulator

The program featured a fleet of Dodge Neons that could be programmed to let students experience “driving drunk” without the use of alcohol.

Paul Holmes

 

Back in 1988, DaimlerChrysler (then Chrysler Corp.) created the Neon Drunk Driving Simulator (NDDS) national tour designed to educate teens about the dangers of drinking and driving.  The program featured a fleet of Dodge Neons that could be programmed to let students experience “driving drunk” without the use of alcohol.  By 1999, the aging program needed a facelift.  Working together, DaimlerChrysler and Golin/Harris developed and executed a plan to refresh the tour and maximize the Company’s partnership with Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD).  The revitalized program allowed nearly 131,000 high school students to experience first-hand the dangers of drunk driving; inspired a groundswell of support from state traffic coalitions and safety advocates across the country; helped journalists understand that drunk driving continues to be a deadly issue for teenagers; and most importantly, reinforced DaimlerChrysler’s commitment to passenger safety, helping to strengthen the image of both the corporate and the Dodge Neon brand.

CHALLENGE

We confronted two distinct challenges:

  • NDDS was an out-dated program that a number of regional media outlets had already covered.  
  • Drunk driving is an established and highly documented issue.  
  • The re-design would need to give reporters something new to say about the NDDS program and the issue of drunk driving.

RESEARCH

The NDDS team utilized a variety of research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and MADD to validate the revitalization of the NDDS tour. Studies conducted by NHSTA and MADD revealed that:

  • In 1998, an alarming 2,210 youths died in alcohol-related crashes – nearly 36% of teen traffic fatalities
  • Alcohol is the number one drug of choice among youth – killing 6.5 times more young people than all illicit drugs combined
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20-year-olds
  • “Driving Under the Influence” of alcohol is the most frequently committed violent crime in the United States with more than 1.4 million arrests annually

This compelling data provided the foundation for DaimlerChrysler and Golin/Harris to develop a strong campaign on which to focus all public relations efforts for the 2000 NDDS tour.

PLANNING AND STRATEGY

Equipped with convincing statistics, the first step in developing the (NDDS) public relations strategy was to build a strong media campaign targeting high school students, parents/adults and third party influencers, including media, safety advocates and government officials.  Together, DaimlerChrysler and Golin/Harris worked against the following objectives:

  • Develop a plan to maximize DaimlerChrysler’s partnership with MADD
  • Create a press kit with pertinent youth alcohol-related fatality statistics, background information about the NDDS and information to heighten awareness about DaimlerChrysler’s partnership with MADD
  • Develop a B-roll package to send to media outlets across the country that provided program visuals
  • Conduct two major press events to draw attention to the program

EXECUTION

To kick-off the 2000 NDDS tour, DaimlerChrysler and Golin/Harris planned an event commemorating MADD’s 20th anniversary.  On February 11, the tour was launched from MADD’s headquarter city, Dallas.  The daylong celebration included a press conference; a satellite media tour and ride-and-drives on the NDDS obstacle course.  During the festivities, Dallas area high school students, DaimlerChrysler executives, members of the media and MADD’s national board members drove the NDDS.   

The launch event was followed by eight months of grassroots media relations as the NDDS traveled across the country, reaching out to students at more than 300 high schools.  The tour culminated on October 3 in Washington, D.C. where DaimlerChrysler sponsored the MADD National Youth Summit to Prevent Underage Drinking.  The Summit brought together young people representing each congressional district to discuss and develop solutions to prevent underage drinking and impaired driving.  

At the Summit, the NDDS obstacle course was set on Capitol Hill, allowing members of Congress and MADD youth delegates to experience the program.  More than 400 people took the wheel that day and learned the risk of impaired driving.

To spread the word through media and teen advocates, efforts included:

  • Photographs featuring each delegate and their member of Congress sent electronically to the delegates’ hometown market
  • In conjunction with Seventeen, a leading teen magazine, develop a discussion forum run by teens for teens. A significant feature appeared in the February 2001 edition of Seventeen
  • Creating an educational video with an “MTV feel” made available to schools and community organizations. Tthe video offers a revealing look at the devastating consequences of drinking and driving in interviews with an offender and a victim’s family.  
  • Securing key national media coverage, including NBC’s Today Show, CNN, Univision and Telemundo
  • Conducting a live satellite media tour with Millie Webb, MADD National President as a spokesperson

EVALUATION

The revitalized NDDS program was a dynamic demonstration of DaimlerChrysler’s commitment to passenger safety and strengthened the image of the corporate and Dodge Neon brand. The program also inspired a outpouring of support from state traffic coalitions and safety advocates; helped journalists understand that drunk driving continues to be a deadly issue for teenagers; and promoted healthy driving habits and responsible decision-making with teens. Results included:

  • More than 11 million media impressions
  • Nearly 131,000 high school students at more than 300 high schools learned and experienced first-hand the dangers of drunk driving
  • More than 400 teenage safety advocates from across the country had an opportunity to experience the Simulator with their congressional representatives
  • Story placements in high school newspapers and on high school Web sites
  • Continued value-added positive response from members of congress and other strong third party influencers
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