A campaign developed by Medway Council has caused controversy and divided opinion among local people and the media.
‘Engage your brain’ comprises a series of resources including a satirical cinema ad featuring an undertaker offering a series of ‘promotional deals’ to point out the dangers of using mobile phones and not paying attention when crossing the road. In the commercial the undertaker says, ‘We hope to see you dead soon’. The campaign launched with a photo shoot featuring a council officer dressed as an undertaker sitting in a coffin.
Su Negus, principal RSO for Medway Council, says: “The campaign is designed to demonstrate clearly to our road users that not paying attention while using the road may have serious consequences. We are asking people to show respect for the road - to ‘engage your brain and stay road aware’.
"The commercial was passed by the British Board of Film Classification, the independent regulator of the film and video industry in the UK."
In a report in The Telegraph, the campaign was described as ‘sick and crass’ by John Weir, the spokesman for the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors. "While road safety is important, this is tasteless. I wonder what someone who has recently lost a loved one would feel about this," he added.
And Angela Grant, a local resident, said the campaign was an unacceptable use of the public's money.
She said: "They spent £85,000 of taxpayers money on this offensive campaign. How dare they say 'We hope to see you dead soon'? I will try not to let my daughter see it. If she did, she would want to know why the council want her to die. It's totally insensitive and it's amazing that they think it's acceptable to say it."
However, in another report in the local paper The Medway Messenger, funeral director Tony Allen backed the campaign.
Mr Allen said: "We see the effects serious road crashes have on families, probably more than most. Surely using a funeral director to relay the message that if you don't concentrate on your driving you could die, does get the message out there to people? If it saves just one life, then surely it has worked?"
There’s certainly no denying that the campaign received significant media exposure. In addition to the Telegraph and the Medway Messenger, it was also covered on local BBC1 and ITV1 programmes, the Daily Express, Medway News and two local radio stations, Invicta and KMFM.