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How a UK road safety video went viral with 5 million views

How a UK road safety video went viral with 5 million views

By UTalkMarketing Editor, Clark Turner.

When Sussex Safer Roads Partnership embarked on a new video project they never imagined that the work would go viral.

But ‘Embrace Life’ has become something of an online phenomenon, watched almost five million times on YouTube and with requests from around the world to licence the work for TV.

Posted on YouTube at the end of January 2010, the lift off was almost spontaneous, fuelled by social media to expose the work to a global audience.

"The Sussex Safer Roads Partnership were already looking to create a road safety campaign with a more positive message and so when I approached Communications Manager Neil Hopkins and his team with ideas for a fresh take on road safety filming, it was evident that were all on the same page in our quest to deliver a powerful message, but in a new way,” said writer and director, Daniel Cox.

“Key to the film's creation was to focus on a message that didn't take a conventional route to shock and scare the audience; rather it was my intention to bring the audience in on the conversation of road safety, specifically seat belts, and the best way to do this was to make a film that could engage the viewer purely visually and could be seen and understood by all, whoever they are and wherever they lived."

According to producer, Sarah Alexander, the challenge was huge, demanding state of the art camera technology and 93,000 watts of lighting over a tight two day shoot.
Although designed purely as an online project, the work premiered in cinema where it was an instant success.

“The scariest part of making anything is the first time you show other people. Touching people’s emotions is not a science at all, it is an incredibly difficult thing to do and even after working on it for months you are still not sure how people will react,” added Alexander.

“We always aimed to make something of TV / cinema quality so that is where we launched it. The first time I saw it on a cinema screen in front of an audience of hardened Police officers and realised they were touched, I was sure we had succeeded.”

The marketing and promotion campaign for ‘Embrace Life’ kicked off with a direct mail strategy, which pointed the message recipients to a website showing nothing but a logo and a count-down timer.

Communications Manager for the SSRP, Neil Hopkins, explained that the aim was to promote the website – – and initiate chatter across the social networks as individuals worldwide started to wonder what the logo was about.

Response to this was excellent, with conversation rife across and social networks including Twitter and Facebook as users speculated on what the campaign could be for.

The campaign then moved to an above-the-line poster and flier push, again to drive traffic to the website. Specific websites to carry the message were also identified, based on demographics and traffic.

This early strategy appears to have worked well, with seeds sown with key influencers throughout the media and advertising/design communities for the launch of the campaign on 20 January, 2010.

The campaign entered another dimension on the back of an arrangement between Brighton and Hove's City Clean team and Aroe, one of the South East's most prominent and respected graffiti artists.

Aroe jumped on board with the project, helping to identify sites and then repaint them with the Embrace Life logo – up to 20 feet high in some cases.

“Being able to work with an artist of Aroe's calibre, and with the backing of the City Clean team, allowed us to do something very different with Embrace Life,” explained Hopkins.

“Working at street level enhanced the concurrent billboard/six-sheet (bus shelter side) campaign that we also used to raise awareness.”

Social media has been a particular driving force of this campaign. One ‘Embrace Life’ viewer was so impressed that she set up a Facebook group dedicated to getting the film on national TV. It now has almost 5,000 members.

And Twitter has been filled with tweets and retweets promoting the film to all audiences.

Embrace Life has now reached 129 different countries and was the fifth top-rated video in February 2010 on YouTube. It is also the most top rated YouTube film of all time in the education category.

There has been additional international interest in licensing the product to air on national/state TV channels.

As of mid-February 2010, requests had been received from four states in the USA; Brazil; Ontario, Canada; Arabian Gulf and France.

It is now hoped that ‘Embrace Life’ will be booked into Sussex cinemas.

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