Let's just say, hypothetically speaking, that you're in a saloon, and you notice a guy down the bar getting in a loud, pointless argument with the obvious intent of impressing some woman nearby. As the fisticuffs begin, would you walk up to him and say, "Oh, excuse me, but I couldn't help noticing you act like a jerk. You know, women aren't impressed with men who pick fights in bars. So what you're doing here, actually, is making a fool of yourself and making us all rather uncomfortable to witness it"?
The answer is, no, of course you wouldn't, because a) you're apt to have your nose turned inside out, because b) the guy is only going to get angrier, because c) jerks in a state of jerkitude are not given to persuasion by rational arguments even when confronted by crystalline logic.
Here's what macho nitwits never say: "Well, you know you're right! I was acting like a fool. But now that you've pointed out my error, you'll never see such behavior from me again."
All of which is to say, there's more to solving a problem than identifying the problem. Or even identifying the culprit, particularly when the culpability hinges on emotional immaturity, raging machismo and stupidity.
And that is why the public service campaign called "Road Rage," from J. Walter Thompson, London-focusing on the foolishness of aggressive drivers-is such a colossal waste of effort. It's well-meaning. Clever. Absolutely bang-on correct. But a waste nonetheless.
Produced by the agency on speculation after one of its creatives was victimized by an aggressive-driving menace, two ads attempt to show such behavior for the macho idiocy it is. And so they do, cunningly enough, without ever showing an automobile.
The first shows close-up profiles of two male pedestrians, in superslow motion, with an audio track of car sounds corresponding to the men's movements. You can see their breath come out of their mouths, like exhaust, and after some provocative revving-the sort of rpm challenge you associate with drag racers-we realize that these guys are preparing to race. The traffic signal turns green and off they go.
On foot. The length of the crosswalk, with the winner punching the air in exulation.
"Stupid isn't it?" reads the onscreen super. "So why do it in your car? Don't drive like a dipstick."
Oh, it's a point well-taken. So is the second iteration, which shows two morons pushing baby strollers and getting in a reckless race that winds up in a collision with an innocent bystander. Unquestionably, people who risk their own lives, their children's lives and the lives of other drivers by racing on the roadways are complete fools.
That, however, is not a revelation. It is obvious to everyone but the complete fools who constitute the problem to begin with-people who take out their frustrations behind the wheel because, it would seem, that is the only place where they feel powerful and in control. Such a mentality will no finger-wagging ad penetrate. JWT might just as well prepare two spots cautioning against picking fights in bars.
In a public-service-advertising universe with so many worthy causes and such finite media resources, isn't it better to concentrate one's efforts where there