Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Nov 17, 2014

Behind the scenes of reducing traffic accidents... and making award judges cry

SHANGHAI - How does one get a haul of awards for a campaign without an actual client brief? We investigated the sequence of events behind Lowe China’s ‘Human traffic signs’ tear-jerker for Buick, among the most awarded pieces of Chinese creative this year.

The entire campaign comprises a 1-minute-30-second spot and the seven print visuals below. As you view them, we give the behind-the-scenes story of their creation, without giving away too much confidential information.

1. No entry: The initator of the campaign idea, Zeng Qiang (group creative director at Lowe China) identified a problem statistic. In China, someone is injured in a traffic accident every three minutes, and every 10 minutes, someone dies as a result of one. Pedestrians and drivers failing to acknowledge and obey traffic signs are the key to these tragic figures.

2. No left turn: The Lowe China team set out to make this happen, by "sourcing" real traffic accident victims from the China Disabled Persons' Federation and various local hospitals. The team contacted more than 100 victims. Nine victims (or relatives of a deceased victim) kindly agreed to appear in the campaign.

3. No pedestrians: The agency pitched the idea to Lowe's Global Creative Council to obtain funding to turn it into reality. "This is an idea that will gain prestige for the network," one advocate said. The plan, according to a source who asked for anonymity, was to then persuade Lowe's star client in China, General Motors, to adopt the idea for the Buick brand, or to offer it to another car manufacturer.

4. No trucks: With the green light on, the agency got the nine victims to hold up traffic signs at the spots where their accidents actually happened in a five-day live stunt staged in mid-March, with the captured visuals running on broadcast and print media on World Traffic Safety Day (7 April). The key message: “Signs are there for a Reason. Obey the rules.”

5. No U-turn: The agency wrote a nice, succint case study summary that reads in part: "Trying to be calm and hide their emotion, the victims' amputated bodies, or the family of the deceased, say it all as they pose as human traffic signs. They quietly carry the important warnings at these accident-prone locations. The road safety campaign offers a stark warning of the dangers of not obeying traffic laws. The beautifully crafted photographs and film from the accident hot spots provide a compelling message about the importance of road safety."

6. Speed limit (40km/h) : Lowe submitted the campaign to as many award shows as possible. Its latest award from OneShow China last weekend adds to the existing haul, including wins at China Great Wall Festival, China 4As Awards, AdStars, Cannes, London International Awards, Spikes Asia, China Effies since June this year.

7. Traffic light ahead: Reduce traffic accidents (hopefully). The only statistic so far: Lowe makes the surprising claim of a 50 per cent reduction in accidents during the five-day live stunt in March by comparing it to monthly averages. More detailed statistics are still being tabulated with the Traffic Administration Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security in China, we are told. Plans are also in place for to conduct a survey about traffic attitudes among the public in order to gauge the real effectiveness of this campaign, though the agency was unable to commit to a completion date when probed, citing lack of manpower and budget.

Nonetheless, Zeng commented on the emotional aspect. “To me, they are all heroes," he said. "These victims are very brave and some of them told me appearing in the campaign is also part of their healing process.”

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