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From safety illusion to advertising delusion

Interior. Late Afternoon. The offices of Sterling, Draper and Bumper Advertising.

Beautiful and brainy creative director DAWN DRAPER adjusts her knee-high skirt as she sits atop a long conference table. She pours three fingers of Grey Goose into a mug of tea. Beside her sit white-haired account manager RONA STERLING and youthful copywriter PETER CAMPBELL.

Dawn: Okay, what do we have?

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Peter: Meet Pavement Patty.

A slide appears of realistic photograph of a girl chasing a ball. The picture is painted on a speed bump.

Peter: Officials in West Vancouver have put Pavement Patty on a speed bump outside a local school. She is a 2-D image meant to "give drivers who travel at the street's recommended 30 km per hour enough time to stop." You see, as you drive closer the photo looks like a real girl. If the driver doesn't stop. They run over a fake child. It's supposed to make people drive better. It's brilliant.

Rona: Ha. Safety through fear! I smell lawsuit.

Dawn: No, hold on. This is big. There hasn't been something this big since MTV put music commercials on between music commercials. Picture this: You're driving along in a school zone, speeding, when all of a sudden Pavement Patty jumps up at you. You think you're going to hit a child!

Rona: And you almost die of a heart attack!

Peter: And you see she's wearing a Dora the Explorer back pack!

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Dawn: Right or eating a Happy Meal. She could be holding a McNugget. Because drivers not only need to be informed about the dangers of speeding in a school zone…

Rona: They need to be made aware of family-friendly dining and accessory choices for their children.

Dawn: We'll get the rights to that Peanuts character, what was she called?

Rona: Peppermint Patty.

Dawn: Right, Peppermint Pavement Patty says, "Drive safe and while you do reward yourself with a refreshing York Mint."

Peter: It's gold, Dawn. Gold. Dawn Draper has done it again.

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Dawn: Peter, anybody ever told you you're cute when you listen?

Dawn and Rona share a lewd chuckle. Dawn takes a long drink. The glint her eyes shows she is not convinced.

Dawn: Wait a minute. We may be going at this all wrong. These are the "speed bumps of the future," right? That's what the municipality of West Vancouver calls them. What's more appealing to consumers than appearing to care about child safety? It's a branding moment. Picture this: You're just about to run over a 2-D child, you're freaking out. Then you realize it's an optical illusion. You're not running over a child, you're having a learning moment…

Peter: Relief.

Dawn: Right. You're relieved. Then you see written on the speed bump the words "This Terrifying Moment of Child Safety brought to you by Pampers."

Rona: Thank you Pampers!

Peter: Gold, Dawn, gold!

Dawn: What does research say?

Peter: I think you'll find this interesting. Apparently, the more alcohol a person consumes, the more likely he or she is to be involved in a pedestrian/automobile encounter. According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation of Canada's 2007 report "Alcohol-Crash Problem in Canada" 39.3 per cent of fatally injured pedestrians had been drinking and most of these had blood alcohol levels over 80 milligrams.

Dawn: You wanna try that again in English?

Peter: Drunks not only drive drunk, when they are walking they get hit a lot by cars.

Rona picks up a telephone.

Rona: Beverley, hold all my calls, we're about to make a fortune.

Dawn: Picture this: You're speeding along an urban street, suddenly, you see a 2-D Bob and Doug McKenzie stagger in front of your car…

Peter: A motion detector triggers a voice that says, "Look out, you hoser! ...

Dawn: … "There's people drinking and walking out here. Take off!"

Peter: We can have speed bumps done up like cans of Coors Light! Or Heineken kegs? They could say: "I've had one too many. Heineken you be Careful when you're Driving."

Dawn: Slow down for the Silver Bullet Speed Bump. (pause) We lobby city hall. Get them to change crosswalks from yellow to sky blue and rebrand them "Blue Lights."

Rona: We could have pubs give out reflective jackets to people who've had too much, and have them sponsored by breweries. You know, "This weaving lager-soaked wanderer brought safely home to you by Molsons."

Peter pours more vodka into Dawn's mug.

Rona: Here's to making money while scaring people.

Dawn: Here's to good intentions. Where would we be without them?

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About the Author
Road Sage columnist

Andrew Clark, an award-winning journalist, screenwriter and author, is Director of the Comedy Writing and Performance program at Humber College in Toronto. More

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