Report into WA Office of Road Safety advertising anything more than a Distraction?

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MAC_Distractions_2.jpgHaving discussed it with a few colleagues this week, I'm still not sure what to make of the report into the Office of Road Safety's advertising campaigns. As reported by PerthNow and Sunday Times last Sunday, it was  'scathing' of their efforts.

The review was done by east coast based consultants enth degree and the majority of the criticism seems to be directed at the media planning: "We see no evidence that the ORS media planner has injected creative thinking into the development of media strategies, but appear to have taken the path of least resistance which is to replicate the client brief."
That sounds harsh but reviews like this inevitably find something to criticise, otherwise what's the point?

I'm sure ORS's media agency, OMD, was stung by the criticism but it's not catastrophic. The ORS media is covered by the Government campaign master media contract, so it can't go anywhere other than Dentsu Aegis Network (Mitchells/Carat/Vizeum) - the other Govt campaign master media agency. But not likely.

I also understand the analysis was based on campaigning done a year or two ago. Much has changed since then, including staff and structures at OMD. They're a good outfit and will undoubtedly react quickly to improve the situation, if they haven't already.

And the ORS, like all government departments, has had their plans disrupted in the last couple of years as the Government has been hit with falling revenue and looked to save money. Any agency with government clients knows that it has been a 'challenging' period.

Looking on the bright side, hopefully on the back of this report the ORS and OMD can take the recommendations on-board and operate in a more settled, clearly defined environment.

To that end, the bit that caught my eye was that WA had the second lowest road safety advertising spend per head of population. It said last year WA spent $1.3 million on road safety media - down from $7.6 million the year before but it has been increased to $2.9m this year.

Road Safety spending seems to have become a political football. On the launch of a fifth fixed speed camera recently, the shadow police minister Michelle Roberts criticised the Government for sitting on $80m in the Road Trauma Trust Account collected from speed and red light cameras in order to prop up a weak state budget.

Minister Harvey argues that the government is aiming to spend the money effectively "...but stopped short of saying the government would commit more money to road safety advertising." That's not surprising. We all know advertising is the first thing oppositions attack given the opportunity, so the Minister wasn't going to announce anything publicly.

MACSA_Distractions_1.jpgIn the meantime, I understand a new campaign on driver distractions will launch this weekend. It's the campaign the Minister said they've bought from South Australia "following a recommendation in the report that WA would save at least $390,000 a year by importing road safety ads from interstate and tweaking them for local audiences."

That's not great for the local production industry - which could certainly do with a boost right now - but it's not an unprecedented situation either. The ORS has used campaigns from other states previously.

Whether more campaigns will be imported rather than created here remains to be seen. I hope not. The ORS has historically been one of the most significant advertisers in our industry so it would be good to have them back and firing.

Martin Trevaskis

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