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Ford Europe’s ‘Emoji’ cycling jacket wins PR award (+ video)

Initiative smashed targets in terms of reach – but did it reduce road danger?

Ford Europe’s ‘Emoji’ cycling jacket, which attracted a fair few comments – none of them complimentary, it has to be said – when we covered it in February last year – has won a PR award.

> Ford's latest cycle safety brainwave? The Emoji Jacket. No, really (+ video)

The prototype jacket, created in partnership with industrial design specialists Designworks, was part of Ford’s ongoing ‘Share the Road’ campaign, and was said to allow “the wearer to effectively communicate their emotions to other road users around them by using emoji icons.”

Now, it’s landed the Ford Team at ad agency WPP the top prize in the Automotive and Transport category at The Drum Awards for PR 2021.

Reporting on the award, The Drum – a leading publisher within the marketing and advertising sector – headlined its article, Ford Europe cut road accidents involving cyclists with the ‘Emoji Jacket’.

Now, there’s nothing in the article itself to suggest that happened – indeed, latest figures show a 41 per cent increase in cyclist deaths on Britain’s roads in 2020 – and it seems instead that the award may have been based on the campaign spectacularly smashing its targets.

According to the WPP Ford Team, the campaign aimed to:

Encourage conversation around safer behaviour between motorists and cyclists.

Raise awareness of Ford’s Share The Road campaign.

Achieve 150+ pieces of coverage across Europe, with 50,000 organic YouTube views.

And the results of the campaign?

The Emoji Jacket generated 648 earned media stories across the world, with an organic social reach of 40.9m – far exceeding our target of 150. And our YouTube video received 150,000 organic views. Coverage appeared in BBC, Metro, Ansa.it, Libero.it, Marca, 20 Minutos, L’Usine Nouvelle, MSN to name a few.

Our road user safety and Share The Road key messages landed in media, delivering on our KPI, with article headlines highlighting how the jacket can ‘help cyclists communicate’, ‘help people share the road’, ‘bridge the gap between cyclists and drivers’, ‘keep people safer’ and ‘help save lives.’

Clearly, they forgot road.cc – where’s a winking face emoji when you need one? – when citing media coverage, but while the campaign may have helped highlight the issue of how vulnerable cyclists are, and certainly reached more people than had first been aimed for, we think it’s a leap from that to state that it actually led to a reduction in collisions in which a rider was injured.

We don’t want to knock any initiative that has at its heart the aim of making the roads safer for cyclists.

But as we’ve said before, the message needs to be targeted at those with the greatest potential to do harm – drivers – and any campaign predicated on a ‘share the road’ message sends the wrong signal.

That’s especially resonant in a week when we’ve covered the story of a teenage driver in Texas who crashed into six cyclists while ‘coal rolling’ them.

We’ll leave it to you to guess which vehicle manufacturer made the pick-up truck he was driving.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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