Clown safety message gets serious results

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 44, August 2013

A survey measuring the results of last summer’s safe boating campaign reveals that lifejackets are now more likely to be carried on boats and worn by children, but there’s still more work to be done.
Clown campaign
Maritime New Zealand ©2019
MNZ’s “Don’t be a clown – wear a lifejacket” advertisement produced positive results.

MNZ commissioned market research company IPSOS to research whether boaties’ attitudes towards wearing lifejackets had improved in response to the advertising campaign developed by MNZ with the National Pleasure Boat Safety Forum.

The campaign ran from December 2012 to the end of February 2013 and reprised the clown lifejacket commercial used to great effect in 2011/12. Respondents to an earlier survey had found the advertisement memorable and effective, and said it had prompted them to change their behaviour on the water.

The research objectives for the most recent survey were to measure current behaviour in the recreational boating sector, and to gauge whether the advertising is having an impact on people’s attitudes to boat safety.

The survey set out to measure attitudes and actions relating to all four key safety messages for recreational boating: always wear a lifejacket, know the weather, carry two communications devices and avoid or limit alcohol.

Respondents were drawn from advertisements on the MetService, TradeMe and Fishing websites, which invited people to take part in the survey. All 760 people who completed the survey were New Zealand residents aged over 15, who owned or had spent time on a boat under 6 metres in the past year. They were sorted into four groups: users of powerboats under 4 metres; users of powerboats between 4 and 6 metres; users of sailboats; and users of kayaks, jet skis or dinghies.

The results showed very high rates of lifejacket carriage by all and lifejacket wearing by children, but larger powerboat users were least compliant with lifejacket wearing behaviour.

Most people responded favourably to MNZ’s “Don’t be a clown – wear a lifejacket” advertisement about wearing lifejackets. Almost all of those surveyed (95%) were aware of the ad, and a majority liked it and considered it relevant. Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents said they had been encouraged to wear lifejackets by MNZ’s campaign. More than two-thirds (70%) said the ad made them feel better about asking others to wear a lifejacket and one-fifth (22%) had held a conversation about lifejacket wearing as a result of the ad.

In other survey findings, larger powerboats are more likely (94%) to regularly carry two means of calling for help, whereas people using smaller vessels are less likely to do so.

Only half (51%) of those using kayaks, jet skis and dinghies make a habit of carrying two emergency communications devices. Most of those surveyed check the weather before setting out on the water (96%).

Attitudes to drinking alcohol on board boats were similar for all groups, with about four-fifths (83%) of respondents stating that they regularly avoid drinking alcohol when out on the water.

Other promotional measures supporting the summer advertising campaign included pushing the lifejacket message to boaties as they headed to the water, by distributing 20,000 Free Safe Boating Packs through Z service stations. Messaging on posters and bait bags at the service stations encouraged people to wear lifejackets, and the “Don’t be a clown” ad was played on site.

A tagline in televised weather reports served as a reminder to wear lifejackets on the water, and advertisements placed on weather and TradeMe websites directed people to an auction page where they could buy lifejackets and to the MNZ website.

Māori and Pacific Island radio stations also played the “Don’t be a clown” ad and ran safety messages in different languages.

In other water safety initiatives, MNZ sponsored Waikato Regional Council to develop a ‘Marine Mate’ mobile application for boating bylaws, boat ramps, rules and regulations and safety information. Water Safety New Zealand was sponsored to run programmes for Māori and Pacific Islanders, and a water safety programme, Folau Malu (Journey Safely), was run through Pacific Island churches. New Zealand Search and Rescue was also funded to translate boating safety information into 12 different languages.

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