By Barry Janoff
April 2, 2013: Texting and driving has become the equivalent of drinking and driving: Both can lead to calamitous if not disastrous results.
Coinciding with what has been decreed National Distracted Driving Awareness Month by the National Safety Council, Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes the lead in a national campaign that not only addresses the dangers of texting and driving but offers a solution: the Sprint Drive First app, which helps drivers avoid the distraction of texting while driving.
The multi-level campaign is anchored by a TV spot and Internet, with a mini-site from Sprint; and social media including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The effort was created by Sprint and its agency, Team Sprint: Digitas and Leo Burnett.
“With drivers 23 times more likely to crash if they’re texting while driving, the issue of distracted driving continues to be of great concern to Sprint,” Bill White, svp-corporate communications and corporate social responsibility for Sprint, said in a statement. “Sprint chose to work with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in this new ad campaign because he lends a credible and recognizable voice to this important issue. This ad will help educate drivers about the importance responsible driving behavior, which we believe could save lives.”
According to Sprint, the Drive First application "locks an Android mobile phone when the phone’s GPS detects motion above ten miles per hour. Sprint Drive First can direct incoming calls to voice mail and silences distracting alerts. A customizable auto-response can be sent to all text messages, which are held until the driver comes to a stop."
Charges apply, but the company said that Sprint customers can sign up to receive a 15-day free trial by downloading the app from Google Play or visiting the Web site. (Full details here.)
Sprint said that the effort targets not just teens and adults, "but also for those who spend a lot of time behind the wheel, such as long-haul truck drivers, delivery drivers, sales representatives and field employees."
“It’s really easy to get distracted while you’re driving but the Sprint Drive First app takes away the temptation to drive and text,” Earnhardt Jr. said in a statement. “The technology used to create a safer driving environment is awesome and I’m happy to be the messenger for Sprint during National Distracted Driving Awareness month.”
In the 30-second TV spot, Earnhardt Jr. walks into his garage and speaks to two members of his pit crew. "Hey Dale," says one. "I got your text that says you couldn't text."
"Wait a minute," says the other mystified crew member. "Why would he text that he couldn't text?"
"I was driving," Earnhardt Jr. replies.
"Why not just not text instead of texting that you can't text?" asks the bewildered crew member.
"I didn't text," Earnhardt Jr. tries to explain.
The first crew member then jumps in. "It's just a text saying that he couldn't text."
The other crew member is still baffled. "So who actually texted the text that he couldn't text?"
The answer is as plain as the No. 88 on Earnhardt's National Guard Chevrolet SS: "Dale," says the first crew member.
It takes the voiceover guy to set the record straight. "The Sprint Drive First app. It blocks and repipes to texts while you drive." Text then offers, "Texting & Driving." But Earnhardt Jr.'s car then speeds across the screen and wipes out the "&."
According to Sprint, "The overarching message is that driving isn’t a problem, and texting isn’t a problem. [But] we can all help end texting and driving by using the Sprint Drive First application, which helps remove the temptation to drive and text at the same time."
Or as the voiceover explains, “We can all live without the ‘and.’” (See the full spot here.)
Sprint said that a different video would be shown at the Sprint Unlimited Experience, an interactive fan display Sprint is setting up at tracks each weekend throughout the racing season. In that video, Earnhardt Jr. invites fans to try to distract him by texting his number as he gets into a race simulator. As the simulated race begins, a message appears that reads: “Hey, I got your text but I’m driving right now. I’m using Sprint’s Drive First app. You should check it out at Sprint.com/drive.”
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