'Don't Drive High' campaign from Banfield Agency helps Canadian government reach youth with an important message

Case Study by Timothy Jones RGD, President and Creative Director, Banfield Agency


As part of a social change initiative to help the federal government make driving high as unacceptable as driving drunk, Banfield Agency launched a creative campaign to reach young people with this important message. 



With the legalization of cannabis in Canada, the federal government has made it a priority to tackle driving while high. The research has shown that many think that Drug Impaired driving is not as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol, many claiming drug impairment actually improves their driving skills. The federal government want to make high driving as socially unacceptable as driving drunk has become.


This campaign is part of a large multi-year contract that Banfield won through an RFP process with Public Safety Canada. We were able to leverage work we had done in the past with Drug Free Kids Canada to demonstrate our experience and expertise around high driving awareness.



Research provided by the client helped us understand and segment the primary audience group the campaign would be targeted towards to make the biggest impact. Males between the ages of 16 to 24 were identified as the group with the biggest potential for perception shift. The research also helped identify where this age group is spending their time and the types of media that they are consuming.


Identifying the target audience was critical for determining the tone and direction we were to take in the creative and helping us develop our guiding principles. We identified the motivators and barriers that this age group experience and leveraged this information to help depict a world that the target audience would relate to, built on facts while also connecting with their emotions and illustrating consequences that resonate with them. 


A significant barrier we had to overcome was the fact that this campaign was coming from the federal government, and therefore risked feeling like a typical “government ad” to the target audience. We know that young people often tune out messages that feel preachy or use language and visuals that come off as inauthentic or contrived. It was important for the creative to feel real and relatable, while also maintaining the seriousness of the message and the credibility of the source. 



To give us some context and history we took a look at many DUI campaigns of the past as well as the more recent DID campaigns both nationally and internationally. The strongest examples didn’t let the design and storytelling distract from communicating the message. They stated a clear call to action and illustrated a relevant consequence that could happen if that call to action was ignored. The really good ones also told their stories from the point of view of the audience first, not of the organization.


A really great example was the 2017 DID campaign from the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) called “Capitaine de bateau”. It opens by stating a fact very clear and ends on the consequence of ignoring it. It is clearly made for the audience first which comes through in the tone and direction.

Design Process 

To achieve a high level of impact, our creative had to be straightforward, using plain language and visuals. We choose to concentrate our campaign on recreating the world that our millennial audience lives and breaths – social media and their smartphones. We developed six different creative executions that were workshopped with the client. From there, we narrowed it down to three concepts which were focused tested in six locations across Canada with one concept coming out as a clear winner.


The chosen concept stood out from the others as the idea most clearly rooted in the world of our audience. For many people in this age group, phones are an integral part of life; a person's phone is essentially the lens through which they look at the world. With this idea in mind, we used screens, social media, selfies and emojis as a vehicle for telling our story and connecting with the audience. 


Campaign deliverables included the following: 

  • a 30-seconds television spot, which was also adapted for out-of-home media in bus shelters, restaurants and bars, campus murals and digital signage.  
  • a custom-made digital mobile game 
  • a chat-bot (a first for the federal government!) 
  • a D-Box Cinema experience
  • Much Music Video Awards sponsorship assets
  • social media content
  • Spotify advertising

These were all delivered by a large team very quickly to meet the campaign’s aggressive timelines.




Because this was a high profile campaign for the federal government on a very topical issue, there were multiple levels of approvals that we had to pass at every step, while always trying to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the campaign. We knew our team wouldn’t be able to sell our ideas all the way up the chain to the PMO’s office if our client wasn’t a big believer in what we were proposing so they could secure all the approvals.


For this type of project it is helpful to be armed with research-based insights and a solid rationale behind every decision. Most importantly, it's essential to bring your client along on the creative journey with you. By involving them throughout the concept development process, incorporating their input early on and providing the opportunity to share ownership of the overall direction, we ensured alignment at every stage. 


The second challenge was a compressed timeline. The client wanted the campaign in market by a certain date and there was no negotiation. We had about half the normal required time to produce all pieces for delivery. This was only possible through regular touch points and status meetings as well as a lot of overtime.




By taking a bold, youthful and straightforward design approach and applying it across a multitude of media channels, we were successful in creating recall, penetrating our audience and generating conversation. 


It is too early in a multi-year social change campaign to measure success of our greater goal of reducing DID. However, we did meet or exceed all of the KPIs that where set for the different channels, which tells us that the creative was successful in engaging our audience.



  1. Get as many different perspectives as you can. Share your ideas and provide opportunities for others to build on them. Don’t work in isolation.
  2. Work iteratively. Create it, pitch it, get feedback and go back to make it better. Repeat.
  3. More time doesn’t always make things better. Being forced to make decisions fast can be good.