AT&T and Werner Herzog set new standard for PSAs

The 35-minute From One Second to the Next a new direction for safe driving messages

The 35-minute From One Second to the Next a new direction for safe driving messages

Texting and driving PSAs have become common in recent years, tackling a tragic problem that has become more common as the texting habit grows along with the near ubiquity of smartphones.

Often the tactic is to shock viewers with ultra realistic depictions of the horrors of accidents caused by drivers distracted by their phones. This 2009 effort out of the U.K. comes to mind as a good example. At last year’s Marketing Awards, lg2 won three golds for the Texto campaign for Societe de l’Assurance Automobile du Quebec. A TV spot started with some humour, making the crashing finale all the more jarring.

Type “texting” and “PSA” into YouTube and you’ll get plenty of other examples.

But a week ago, AT&T posted its latest effort to solve the problem that has been generating plenty of coverage and drawn more than 1.6 million views already.

The American telecom giant partnered with famed director Werner Herzog to educate viewers of the dangers of texting while driving in From One Second to the Next, a 35-minute film (below) that emotionally recounts how lives have been forever changed by the issue.

“I knew I could do it because it has to do with catastrophic events invading a family,” said Herzog. “In one second, entire lives are either wiped out or changed forever. That kind of emotional resonance is something that I knew I could cover.”

The documentary, which tells the stories of both victims and perpetrators, is part of the ItCanWait.com campaign and distributed by AT&T to more than 40,000 U.S. high schools, as well as hundreds of safety organizations and government agencies.

The video is jointly presented by AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, with BBDO‘s New York office making creative contributions.

What inspired the legendary filmmaker to direct what’s essentially a public-service announcement?

“It always depends on the project itself,” said the German-born filmmaker. “What AT&T proposed immediately clicked and connected inside of me. There’s a completely new culture out there. I’m not a participant of texting and driving – or texting at all – but I see there’s something going on in civilization which is coming with great vehemence at us.”

The film expands on the 30-second commercials that the director of such critically acclaimed films as Aguirre: The Wrath of God has created for AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign. Herzog, who has spoken out about the intrusion of marketing in creative mediums, doesn’t mind the sponsorship.

“It’s very easy to reconcile that,” said Herzog. “This has nothing to do with consumerism or being part of advertising products. This whole campaign is rather dissuading you from excessive use of a product. It’s a campaign. We’re not trying to sell anything to you. We’re not trying to sell a mobile phone to you. We’re trying to raise awareness.”

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