Helen Mirren tells off 'oxygen-wasting' drunk drivers in Super Bowl ad

Budweiser hopes a new Super Bowl ad featuring famed British actress Helen Mirren will help stop drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel, but a marketing expert says PSAs only work when combined with social pressure.

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In the spot titled "Simply Put," Mirren sits in the booth of a restaurant and speaks directly to the camera, chastising drunk drivers for their conduct.

"If you drive drunk, simply put, you are a short-sighted, utterly useless, oxygen-wasting human form of pollution," she says.

"A Darwin-award deserving, selfish mountain of fresh manure. If your brain was donated to science, science would return it -- so stop it."

Mirren then goes on to tell viewers not to be a "pillock," or idiot, and think of your loved ones.

"Your friends and family thank you. The friends and family of other drivers thank you. Your future-self thanks you," she says.

The ad ends with the hashtag #GiveADamn.

Andrew Oosterhuis, brand director of Budweiser Canada, said the company hopes the Super Bowl spot will help "eliminate" drinking and driving in Canada and around the world.

"The fact that we keep falling back on is: that all accidents related to drinking and driving are 100 per cent preventable," Oosterhuis told CTVNews.ca by phone.

"And as Canada's leading brand we're taking a leadership role of ensuring that we remind consumers that we give a damn and to think twice about drinking and driving."

Oosterhuis said that in the past few years Budweiser made similar attempts by celebrating designated drivers through the "Thank a bud" campaign.

He pointed to findings from Statistics Canada showing that drunk-driving incidents have fallen over the last decade as evidence that the company's efforts are making a difference.

Oosterhuis said Budweiser is also using the massive platform provided by Super Bowl, which drew more than 114 million viewers in the U.S. alone last year, to improve its standing among consumers.

“We want good (public relations),” he said. “We want people to be talking about the importance of not drinking driving.”

However, the latest police-reported stats from 2011 show that the impaired-driving rate had increased four out of the previous five years after an aggressive decline beginning in the early 1990s.

Despite the company's intentions, advertising expert Tony Chapman said the campaign is unlikely to spur significant change.

"In general, if most of that stuff worked, we wouldn't be drinking and driving and we wouldn't be smoking. It takes a long time and it has to be combined with a lot of social pressure," he said.

Chapman said, at most, the ad will be a "catalyst to raise awareness."

"It is good that they do it, and it is part of its social consciousness to do it," he said.

"But what really matters is when your social peers put it on you … But as we know … it is still happening on the roads -- it is a problem that it is far from going away."

Chapman said that Budweiser was likely inspired to create a new drinking-and-driving campaign after the success of its "Friends Are Waiting" commercial.

The 2014 ad shows the developing friendship of a dog and its owner over the years. But after his owner fails to return from a night of drinking with his friends, he is left whimpering by the window of his home.

But the story turns out to be happy one, when his owner returns the next morning and apologizes to his dog. He says that he decided to stay over at his friend's instead of drinking and driving.

Chapman said this ad struck an "emotional chord" with viewers, and can help give the company what he calls a "positive halo."

"When there's so many 'me-too brands' out there … (when) in a blind taste test the greatest beer connoisseur couldn't tell the difference between a lot of them … positive halos help," he said.

Alcohol producers like Budweiser also feel a sense of corporate-social responsibility, which pushes them to offset their sales through positive campaigns, said Chapman.

However, he added that he was surprised that Budweiser went with the PSA format given the success of the "Friends are Waiting" ad.

"What really works with humans, since the beginning of time, is a great … story that I can relate to, and see myself and friends in," he said.

Chapman estimated that the spot, featuring Mirren and set to be featured on televisions sets across North America, likely cost "upwards" of a million dollars.


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