Under the Influence: Analysis of Drunk Driving Advertisements


Figure 1. Sample advertisement for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) created by the Marked for Trade Agency.

When drunk driving public service announcements are thought of, usually people picture the television commercials that can be seen on the Mothers Against Drunk Driving website; however, there are some print advertisements that exist for drunk driving and they depict two things: people or roads. Very few advertisements show wrecked cars although that would be an effective image. The general drunk driving public service campaign focuses on a person who is injured or a dark road. In both of these types, there is a somber or regretful mood because the goal is to prevent the behavior of drunk driving by showing the effects and consequences. These advertisements are directed towards adults between twenty and forty since most of the people depicted are in this age gap.


Figure 2. Sample advertisement for MADD created by Esparza Advertising.

When looking at multiple drunk driving advertisements, the most interesting similarity between them is color. In Figure 1, 2, and 3, the backgrounds are darker which focuses the attention on the pops of colors which are the focal points. This idea is supported by the use of white space in each advertisement at the top. By putting white space at the top, the creators help draw the readers’ eyes to the middle of the advertisement where the focal point is. In figure 3, white space is also to the right of the advertisement which focuses the readers’ eyes to the left. These advertisements use complimentary colors to provide emphasis to the focal points. For example, in Figure 1, the yellow catches a person’s eye because of the dark blues surrounding it. When warm and cool colors are used, a warm color will appear to come forward while a cool color will recede to the background. Yellow is a warm color, so it will stand out in comparison to the dark blue surrounding it. Color is also consistent between advertisements in regards to fonts. In the majority of advertisements created by MADD, the text is white and in a sans-serif font.


Figure 3. Sample advertisement for MADD created by Calder Bateman Communications.

These advertisements are effective because they are “under the influence” of the principles of Gestalt Theory: Proximity, Similarity, Continuity, and Closure. In Figure 1, the audience perceives that the street sign is for the road due to the distance between them. This is very important because the sign creates meaning for the advertisement: it shows how drunk driving changes perspective. Figure 2 has great examples of both similarity and closure. The red and blue lights are linked together as a symbol for police. Also, a police car is not depicted, but the mind fills in this gap which demonstrates closure. Finally, Figure 3 demonstrates continuity because the viewers’ minds follow the direction and lines of the body coming out of the frame.

The principles in the Gestalt Theory demonstrate how the advertisements are good; however, there are some flaws in the advertisements in the delivery of their message. Generally if the text is not capitalized and centered, it is too small. In both Figure 1 and Figure 3, the text is almost unreadable. In these advertisements, pictures are meaningful, but the text creates connection. At first, the meaning in Figure 1 was very unclear which hinders the communication between the creator and the audience. Also, in advertisements like Figure 2, there is less emotional connection which weakens the meaning of the message. These small errors have a huge impact on the perception of the advertisement.

This entry was posted in Blog #2. Researching Print Advertisements. Bookmark the permalink.

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