Advertising to Save Lives

by Apr 16, 2014

Every now and again, an advert comes along that actually benefits you, rather than pushing a product on you. NJ explores advertising that could save your life.

“999 emergency services how many I assist you?”

“My friend is having a heart attack, I’m doing the Staying Alive thing…”

Most advertising is out there to sell us a celebrity-endorsed perfume or get us to do something that would benefit the business paying for the ad. And then there’s the gems that are there to help us, and may even save our lives one day. These public service ads are some of the best:

>> Arguably the best way to save lives is to teach people the simple skills they need to help someone in trouble

Staying Alive

Advertising To Save Lives - Staying Alive

The quote above is from a real 999 call placed when a group of golfers jumped to the aid of their friend who had a heart attack mid-round. The friend in question, Alan Linton, lives to tell his tale and believes it’s all down to the British Heart Foundation’s – Staying Alive ad, featuring Vinnie Jones. Watch here.

Act F.A.S.T


The ‘Act Fast’ TV advert, from Public Health England, educates and informs people by using the word ‘FAST’ as a memorable phrase for spotting the signs and symptoms of a stroke:

Facial weakness – can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?

Arm weakness – can the person raise both arms?

Speech problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?

Time to call 999.

Time is critical when someone is having a stroke and the longer care is delayed the greater the chance of permanent harm or even death. Remembering the four stages of this ad could save someone’s life. Watch here.

>> Often, however, a more impactful way to get the life saving message across is using shock tactics:

U Drive. U Text. U Pay.


From the pithy-titled US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration comes this thought-provoking campaign trying to encourage young drivers not to text behind the wheel. Some powerful scenes show the worst possible scenario and ends with the tagline “U drive. U Text. U pay”. Watch here.

Julie knew her killer


This memorable ad was from back in 2007 but it’s still engrained on my retinas. A big twist brings home the mortal effects of not wearing a seatbelt – but not for the reasons you think. Take a look to see what happened to Julie. Watch here.

>> Then there’s the use of children to hammer home the message – a lazy but powerful method:

It’s 30 for a reason


Road Safety advocates Think! brought us a campaign closer to a horror film than an ad. A little girl telling you “If you hit me at 40mph there’s around an 80% chance I’ll die. Hit me at 30 and there’s around an 80% chance I will live” is definitely going to stay with you down residential roads. Watch here.

Stop. Think. Live


You’ve probably seen these ads from Transport for London around recently if you live in the city. Tackling the lethal distractions caused by headphones and mobiles, it’s imagery is haunting. Brutally simple, but effective!

The Difference


In 2010, St John’s Ambulance encouraged the public to learn first aid in an eery series of print ads produced by BBH London. Lifeless faces were accompanied by an explanation of how they had died and how they could have been saved by basic first aid. Supporting the offline was an iPhone App giving life-saving tips and advice. The print series won a Gold Press Lion at Cannes International Advertising Festival.

>> And sometimes there’s just the pure genius which just sticks:

Don’t drink and drive: Barman


It’s the clever people at Think! again, joined by a very talented actor. When asked for a drink by a punter, a spotlight falls on the barman who then seamlessly works through the possible consequences of that drink too far. It’s just bloody brilliantly executed and unforgettable. Watch here.

Dumb ways to Die


We all know this one, it won BIG at Cannes 2013 and we have even written about it before (view here), but often its purpose (stopping young people messing around near trains) is overlooked.

So the next time you fast forward through the adverts, or ignore the billboard at the bus stop, it’s worth wondering whether giving the message a split second of your attention could save a life. View the site here.

Words by – NJ

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About Natalie Jahangiry

Natalie is half Persian with a Geordie accent. Although small in stature, she makes up for it with a big personality! As a Graphic Designer you will often find Natalie gushing about her passion for all things creative and sharing her ideas with everyone and anyone who will listen. If she’s not decorating her house you will find her cooking up recipes from her foodie family or propped up in a cocktail bar in town.