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Asia Injury Prevention Foundation Winning Vietnams helmet

Alex Clegg
Institute of Practitioners in Advertising
Best International Single Market & Silver, IPA Effectiveness Awards 2008

Asia Injury Prevention Foundation Winning Vietnam's helmet
Vietnam has been at peace for well over two decades now and the desire to concentrate on a bright future has replaced the
years of agony that defined what was once a deeply divided nation.
Over the last 15 years, however, another war has emerged as the country has transformed into one of the world's economic
stars. Rapid motorisation, unaccompanied by necessary safety legislation, led to a situation where 97% of motorcycle riders
and passengers were driving without wearing a helmet in early 2007.
The streets of Vietnam carry over 21 million motorbikes making it the most rapidly motorised nation in the world. Even in 1997
the number of casualties increased 300% year on year. More recently traffic accidents account for on average 38 deaths per
day, approximately 14,000 deaths per year and 30,000 cases of severe brain damage and head injury per year.
The National Traffic Safety Committee states that approximately 4200 children were killed in 2007 and 7000 suffered traumatic
head injury. The Viet-Duc Hospital in Hanoi, one of the country's leading traffic injury hospitals, treated 1637 children under 15
years of age alone. That number is equivalent to four children each day. And for those aged between 18 and 45 traffic crashes
have become the countries leading killer.
The Asian Development Bank
reports that this carnage costs approximately US$900 million per year in property damage,
administrative costs, lost output and medical and human costs, equating to 2.7% of Vietnam's GDP
The World Health Organisation
estimates that wearing a properly fitting helmet decreases the severity of injury by 72% and
decreases the likelihood of death by 39%. In early 2007 only 3% of the population wore a helmet when on a motorbike.
This is a new kind of war, one that the Vietnamese have never had to fight before.
From Cyclo to Motorbike
In Vietnam, the motorbike is a symbol of progress. It has replaced the 'cyclo' as the iconic, ubiquitous mode of transport.
Families can ride together. Market traders can transport goods quickly and easily. Streets buzzing with motorised transport
show the world how the lives of Vietnamese people are developing. International brands such as Honda, BP, Castrol, Yamaha
Title: Asia Injury Prevention Foundation Winning Vietnams helmet war
Author(s): Alex Clegg
Source: Institute of Practitioners in Advertising
Issue: Best International Single Market & Silver, IPA Effectiveness Awards 2008
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Author: Alex Clegg

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and Suzuki have become household names. People can travel further, quicker. They can visit relatives in home towns now
only 2 or 3 hours drive away. The government no longer restricts movement around the country and the motorbike perfectly
symbolises the society's new found energy, mobility and freedom.
Tourists come to Vietnam and discover a country that is 'like Thailand 20 years ago.' Undiscovered beaches, villages, forests
and, most significantly, friendly people. All these are accessed mostly by motorbike. And driving without the constricting
influence of a helmet makes the 'experience' all the more 'authentic' and exciting.
Motorbike 'taxi drivers' are everywhere taking people to work, to lunch, shopping or back home after a night on the town. They
have become known as Xe Om 'drivers you hug' or even Honda Om 'Honda (drivers) you hug.' How unlike the image of
taxi drivers anywhere else in the world!
Men and women flirt and chat with each other as they drive along city streets or at traffic lights. Couples go 'motoring' on balmy
evenings hugging each other as they pass through their constantly changing cities and towns looking out for new shops,
eateries, sales or other as yet undiscovered 'finds.'
When the Vietnam football team beats Laos, Singapore or even Malaysia in the South East Asian games supporters
immediately jump on their motorbikes and drive through their towns and cities waving flags, hooting horns and cheering to
express their joy and pride.
Given the lack of private space in homes, young couples sit and date, or 'make out', on their motorbikes while parked under
the shade of trees, on pavements or in deserted alleyways.

In a matter of only a few years the Vietnamese have grown to love their motorbikes in the same way that Americans learnt to
love their cars in the fifties. Just like the car, the motorbike has became a powerful symbol of freedom and progress now
available, for the first time ever, to the majority of Vietnamese people.
The idea of wearing a helmet or even that a motorbike itself could be a cause of danger just doesn't fit with the spirit of the
The government made an attempt in 2001 to introduce a law for helmet wearing nationwide but the general public simply
refused to comply and the necessary resources required for enforcement were not available. According to Asia Injury
Prevention Foundation there was insufficient education, preparation, helmets and enforcement officers to implement such a

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In 2004 a law was introduced to enforce helmet wearing only on the most critical highways. Helmet sellers quickly set up
stands at the entries and exits to the highways where drivers and passengers could hire helmets for the journey. While this
legislation was largely enforced and did create the habit of wearing a helmet when travelling on certain highways, it also
spawned the excuse that wearing a helmet was only necessary on a highway and not a requirement for all other journeys. As
a consequence people felt there was little difference between riding a motorbike at 40 or 50 kilometres an hour through busy
urban traffic and riding a bicycle at 10 kilometres an hour (any faster is not really an option given the heat and the physical
exertion required). If you don't need to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle around town why would you need to wear one
when on a motorbike.
In addition to this experience, learnings from neighbouring Thailand where helmet wearing is a frequently ignored law also
reveal that enforcement alone is not successful in bringing about behaviour change. Only when combined with education can
enforcement really deliver against the objectives of changing drivers and passengers' habits when it comes to wearing a
Another key factor that needs to be explained in order to set out a clear picture of the context and background to this campaign
is the heritage and culture of public service communications that exists in Vietnam. Only a few years ago involving an
independent, non-government organisation in the development of communications designed to educate the general public was
unthinkable. In particular communications that highlight any kind of issue or problem in society would be interpreted as critical
of the government itself and therefore be unacceptable.
This campaign and its success is therefore a highly significant indication of the change in political and economic climate in
Vietnam. In terms of the tone, the content and the process by which the campaign was developed, all represent firsts in
Vietnam. This was the first public service campaign that did not adopt the Sino/Soviet/Vietnamese style of propaganda that
traditionally relies heavily on 'painted posters', radio broadcasts and editorial. These reasons, in addition to the quality of the
creative work explain, why the campaign received such a great deal of publicity and also won the grand prize at the Golden
Bell award show (Vietnam's annual creative award show for advertising) for the best TVC in 2007.
Gathering Momentum For The War
Asia Injury Prevention Foundation first began fighting the war against non-helmet wearing in 1999. Since then this battle has
been fought on many fronts including:
1. Government lobbying and collaboration with Vietnam's Ministry of Transport and The National Traffic Safety Committee
2. Conferences and workshops including the landmark Global Road Safety Initiative Helmet Conference held in Hanoi in
December 2006. The recommendations of this conference formed the foundation of Government Resolution 32/CP,
Vietnam's latest, nationwide helmet law.
3. A Public Awareness Campaign
4. Protec Helmets: non-profit 'tropical' helmet company, producing high-quality and affordable helmets designed specifically
for tropical conditions

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5. Helmets For Kids: a helmet donation and road safety program where corporations and other organisations sponsor free
Protec Helmets and traffic safety education for school children
In 2005 Asia Injury Prevention Foundation approached Ogilvy & Mather Vietnam to help develop its Public Awareness
Campaign. It is the effectiveness of this campaign that is the focus of this paper.
Given the very apparent nature of the problem the objective in one sense was pretty simple, namely; get everyone to wear
helmets when they ride or are driven on a motorbike. Making that a reality was a little more complex.
One of the first challenges was finding funding for the campaign. Although many potential sponsors expressed an interest in
supporting a public awareness campaign, few were prepared to give money until they had seen what the campaign might look
like and have some sense that it was endorsed by the government. Being involved in a public awareness campaign of this
nature without such endorsement was risky.
The first objective therefore was to develop a campaign idea and materials that could be used as fund raising tools and also
serve as a means of securing government endorsement. These funds would be used to pay for the media investment and
production costs. In short the campaign needed persuade backers and the government in order to run.
The second issue was more specifically focused on the communication itself. What was the best way to get motorbike drivers
and passengers to reassess their deeply entrenched habit and buy and wear a helmet whenever they got on a motorbike? In
an environment where even the doctors and medical staff in the hospitals treating victims of motorbike accidents didn't wear
helmets, initially this felt like an insurmountable challenge.
In addition, other than the casualty information, there was absolutely no data available and no money for research. However,
in a sense none was required as anyone looking out on the streets of any town, city or village anywhere in Vietnam would see
that nobody wore helmets with the exception of those travelling along the 'critical' highways.
The second objective therefore was to fundamentally challenge current habits and change behaviour amongst those most
open to change.
The third objective of the campaign was harder still. Asia Injury Prevention Foundation believed that as part of its multi-faceted
approach, a powerful public awareness campaign could also possibly impact the government's own legislative process, giving
them the confidence that this time around enforcement could work given that the necessary task of education had already
been tackled.
The third objective therefore was to generate significant talkability around the issue and thereby influence the legislative
process which would lead to the implementation and enforcement of a comprehensive helmet law.
Ogilvy & Mather Vietnam focused first on the second objective namely 'fundamentally challenge current habits amongst those
most open to change.'
Given Vietnam's extraordinarily young demographic approximately 60% of the population is under 30 years old initially a

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decision was made to focus on young adults who were possibly first-time-drivers/owners of a motorbike and theoretically less
entrenched in terms of habits.
Research revealed two shocking insights amongst this target:
1. Everybody who the agency spoke to knew someone who had been killed or seriously injured in a motorbike accident.
More shocking still was the number of stories the agency heard about 'bread-winners' who were turned into financial and
emotional burdens for their families as a result of severe brain-damage caused by a motorbike accident. The accident
clearly did not just effect the individual concerned but in these instances its tragic impact on a family was almost more
dramatic than if a younger member of the family was killed outright.
Not only that, all the respondents in the research had themselves been involved in some minor motorbike accident in the
past 18 months to 2 years.
2. Despite their awareness of the severe consequences of being involved in a motorbike accident and the prevalence of
accidents, none of the respondents felt that it was necessary to wear a helmet when driving anywhere other than on the
major highways. Moreover, and more interestingly the same excuses for why it was not necessary emerged again and
a. It ruins my hair
b. Wearing a helmet is so uncomfortable and hot
c. You look stupid wearing a helmet when no one else is
d. It won't happen to me
e. I drive very slowly in the city so it's not necessary
f. I can't hear when I'm wearing a helmet, it's like wearing a rice-cooker on your head
The contrast between the awareness of the severity and prevalence of crashes and the superficiality of the excuses people
gave was striking to say the least. And it led directly to the core creative thought: Turn stupid excuses into life threats
With this core thought in mind the agency then developed materials that could be used to deliver against the first objective:
develop a campaign idea and materials that could be used as fund raising tools. In addition to a storyboard for television, print,
outdoor and digital ideas, postcards were developed, printed and used as tools for presenting the idea to potential backers
and the government.
The look and feel of the campaign is unlike any public service announcement that has ever been produced in Vietnam before.
Excuses are juxtaposed with black and white images of crash victims. Some of the images appear horizontally to emphasize
the contrast between the triteness of the excuse and the severity of the consequence. The image also references the specific
nature of the excuse, so for example when the excuse talks about 'it messes up my hair' the image is that of the top of a
persons head which has been shaved and covered with stitches and scars.
In the television commercial, emphasis is also made of the burden that falls on a family when caring for someone who has

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become physically and mentally disabled as a result of not wearing a helmet in an accident.
There was much discussion about the shocking tone and manner of the creative work. Was it too much in a country that had
only recently suffered so much tragedy? Would the public feel that the campaign punched 'below the belt' and therefore inspire
them to screen out the message, or would it inspire them and the media to pick up on the issue and think again?
When sufficient funds were raised and the necessary backing of the National Traffic Safety Committee secured, the campaign
broke across a range of touch points in June 2007. Obviously getting the message onto the streets was a key priority however
the outdoor environment is extremely heavily regulated in Vietnam. The support of the government through the NTSC enabled
previously unavailable outdoor, eye-level, sites to be created.

Billboard advertising

Street-level advertising
Advertising on buses not usually allowed in many Vietnamese cities was also utilised for the first time as part of the

Bus side ad

Bus shelter ad
The television aired on national television stations HTV and VTV. Print ads appeared in Vietnamese and English press and the
TVC itself was one of the first Vietnamese ads to be posted on YouTube.

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Print ad
The postcards were distributed in coffee shops and bars. And a website,, was also developed.

Campaign postcard
A news conference attended by both international and local journalists launching the campaign was also held.
Ogilvy & Mather conducted street level, vox pop, research when the campaign broke which yielded interesting findings in
terms of how the creative was working. The outdoor images in particular seemed to convey a very direct, persuasive message.
l 'If I don't wear a helmet, that's what is going to happen to me'
l 'That's the same reason I give for not wearing a helmet...and clearly it's not a very good reason!'
These verbatims typified the response. The campaign seemed to be working as designed. The shocking images caught the
attention and the familiar nature of the excuse built relevance and also drove persuasion.
Objective 1: develop a campaign idea and materials that could be used as fund raising tools and as a means of securing

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government endorsement.
In six months the campaign was able to secure US$500,000 from the following donors:
VTV, HTV, The Asian Development Bank, The National Traffic Safety Commission, The Australian Embassy (AusAid), The
Royal Danish Embassy, The US Embassy, The World Bank, The World Health Organisation, Intel Vietnam and Michelin South
East Asia.
Subsequently since the launch of the campaign and its proven success funding has increased to US$1,073000.
The initial creative work also obtained the backing of the government through The National Traffic Safety Commission which
was instrumental in securing new outdoor sites which served as a key touch point in the campaign.
Mr. Nguyen Vu Khue a permanent member of Ho Chi Minh City's traffic safety committee said when interviewed by Ogilvy &
Mather Vietnam:
I really appreciate the communications (campaign) and I do think it really works. It's a breakthrough in propaganda.
Objective 2: to fundamentally challenge current habits and change behaviour amongst those most open to change.
In order to assess the results of the campaign Asia Injury Prevention Foundation commissioned associate professor Dr.
Nguyen Thi Thieng and associate staff from the Institute of Population And Social Affairs in Hanoi to conduct a survey
assessing the effectiveness of the initial phase of the public awareness campaign. This survey produced the following results.
1. Within four months of the launch of the campaign and prior to any change in legislation, the percentage of helmet wearers
increased from 3% to over 10% more than triple. In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City the percentage almost doubled from
10.8% to 19.1%. The percentage of motorcyclists wearing helmets when driving out of the cities increased by 15.7% from
61.3% to 77%
2. The effect was particularly pronounced amongst 1824 year olds. Prior to the campaign only 5.3% claimed they always
wore a helmet when riding a motorbike, 4 months later that figure more than doubled to 11.3%
3. Quite unexpectedly the campaign had an equally pronounced effect amongst 45+ riders. Prior to the campaign 14.2%
claimed to wear a helmet every time they got on a bike, 4 months later that number had risen to 28.8%.
4. For those driving out of the cities the effect was again very noticeable. Amongst 1824 year-olds the percentage of those
always wearing a helmet shifted from 52.4% to 69.2%, amongst 2544 year-olds from 56.7% to 77.2% and amongst 45+
year-olds from 55.1% to 84.3%
5. Despite the break-through, shocking nature of what was in essence a public service campaign the survey revealed that
the overwhelming majority felt that the images and messages conveyed were appropriate. For the three key images that
were used in print, outdoor and online close to 70% of the respondents felt that they were 'appropriate.'
Objective 3: to generate significant talkability around the issue and thereby influence the legislative process which would
lead to the implementation and enforcement of a comprehensive helmet law.
In June and July 2007 the campaign itself was heavily reported in Vietnam's top online and offline media. These included

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articles in:
l Tin Chieu (Evening News)
l Tien Phong (Pioneer)
l Tin Tuc (News)
l Saigon Times
l Vietnam News
l Sinh Vien (Student)
l Vietnam Economic Times
l Nguoi Lao Dong Online (People's Labour)
l Vietnam Net Online
l Vietnam News Agency (Online)
l Vietnam Express (Online)
l Thanh Nien Online (Youth)
l Vietnam News Online
On 15
of September 2007 it became mandatory on all national highways not just the critical ones to wear a helmet.

Most significant of all however is that the impact the campaign had is credited with influencing the government's decision to
bring forward the new nationwide Helmet legislation (Resolution 32), originally planned for summer 2008, to December 15

2007. This was the legislation that Asia Injury Prevention Foundation had been lobbying for so hard for 9 years. From now on
no matter where, no matter who, all drivers and passengers on motorbikes must wear a helmet.
According to Tran Quang Phuong from the NTSC:
Asia Injury Prevention Foundation's recent campaign on helmet wearing has influenced the government to bring
forward the law requiring all motorbike riders to wear helmets on all roads to December 15
2007 instead of next
Everyday earlier has saved approximately 38 lives and countless injured.
The most significant result of all however is that on December 15
2007, in contrast to the earlier attempt to introduce
nationwide legislation in 2001, up to 99% of Vietnamese bike riders and passengers wore helmets. It is an astonishing
compliance rate bearing in mind that it not only requires a change in habit but also an investment of approximately US$5 per
person to buy a helmet. That's US$20 for an average family with two children in a country where the average monthly per

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capita income is under US$70.
Or compare this to seat belt wearing compliance rates for example. In 1999 a report was published by the Scottish
Government. It showed that even though seat belt wearing was made law in Great Britain in 1983, in 1999, 16 years later,
compliance was still only at 86%.
Accident victim statistics covering the time period after the enactment of Resolution 32 are now becoming available. Asia Injury
Prevention Foundation has been communicating with various hospitals, the Ministry of Health and the NTSC to gauge the
differences in pre- and post-helmet law casualties. A summary of these statistics is as follows:
l Adult head trauma and fatalities from motorbike crashes have declined significantly. Most hospitals report substantial
drops in casualties by as much as 25%50%.
l Cho-Ray Hospital reported 20% decrease in head injuries and a 9 % decrease in fatalities from road accidents December
2007 vs. December 2006
l Thu Duc Hospital reported a 50% decrease in brain trauma cases compared to pre-helmet period
l HCMC Police reported traffic accidents fatalities decreased by 26.7% and injuries decreased by 39.5% for Dec-Jan year-
It is too early for any financial figures to emerge however given the almost universal compliance rate, of the US$900 million per
year cost, one can make a conservative estimate of 25% savings (the bottom end of the scale re. drop in casualties that most
hospitals report) which equates to US$225 million per year.
Ogilvy & Mather Vietnam together with Asia Injury Prevention Foundation developed Vietnam's first ever independent public
awareness campaign that was not only instrumental in raising funds for the campaign, it has also more than tripled the number
of motorbike riders and passengers wearing a helmet and generated such significant levels awareness that it influenced the
government to bring forward legislation by approximately 6 months, and also played a role in ensuring an astonishing 99%
compliance rate when the law was introduced.
Legislation had been introduced a few years earlier but compliance did not follow. A key difference was the preparation and
education delivered in large part by this public awareness campaign.
1. ADB Regional Road Safety Program Accident Costing Report Vietnam 2003
2. WHO: Road Safety Manual For Decision Makers And Practitioners, Geneva 2006

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Copyright IPA, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, London 2008
Institute of Practitioners in Advertising
44 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QS, UK
Tel: +44 (0)207 235 7020, Fax: +44 (0)207 245 9904

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