Isenberg Marketing Students Combat Distracted Driving
September 19, 2018
Distracted driving is decisively the leading cause of auto accidents among teens, emphasize Isenberg marketing students Emma Townsend ’18 and Kyle Pandiscio ’18. In June, the Isenberg duo placed first in a national competition to design a billboard that discourages texting while driving. Now in its 7th year, the Project Yellow Light scholarship competition offers anti-texting design contests in three categories—TV, radio, and billboard public service announcements. “'You beat out 1,600 designs,' a contest official told us,” recalls Kyle, whose billboard with Emma depicts a sky-view grid of three unoccupied parking spaces, and a fourth occupied by a car-sized cell phone. (Against all odds, Kyle’s win in the billboard category was his second in as many years. In 2017, his design with UMass student Julia Keefe ’17also won first-place honors.)
“Our goal was to keep the design plain and simple—to impart a quick message,” notes Emma. To that end, the verbal complement to the graphic couldn’t have been more concise: Driving? Park Your Phone. A car moving at 55 miles per hour can traverse a football field in 4.6 seconds, so you don’t want to engage drivers in unnecessary complexities and “deeper meanings,” Kyle and Emma observe. Rush-hour crawls are, of course, another matter—but you have to hedge, via designs that target fast-moving traffic.
The duo’s M.O. entailed ongoing conversations where they floated and discarded a wealth of ideas. One keeper was to deploy Isenberg’s own official font (with, of course, permission from the school). “Being very good friends helped us to mesh in our discussions,” Kyle recalls. “It also allowed us to communicate at all hours, often via—you guessed it—texting.
“The aim of our design, though, was to go beyond driving and texting,” he continues. “That’s because texting is just one of a growing number of cell phone-related distractions.” Hence, Kyle and Emma’s more general message—Driving? Park Your Phone. “Our target audience, defined by Project Yellow Light, was young drivers,” adds Emma. “That’s because being young drivers ourselves, it’s easier and more relevant for us to reach them.”
Founded in 2007 by the mother of a 16-year-old killed in a car accident by a distracted driver, Project Yellow Light passionately aspires to prevent similar tragedies. Since 2011, the project has partnered with the Ad Council to give winning submissions nationwide public exposure through 1,600 TV stations, iHeart Radio channels, and 1,000+ Clear Channel outdoor digital billboards.
That distribution channel runs swift: During his summer internship with Twitter in San Francisco, Kyle noted five of his and Emma’s creations—at a bus stop, a stop light, and on the highway to Oakland. Still, Emma and Kyle acknowledge an uphill battle. Witness their recent mishap when rear-ended by a cellphone-distracted driver. The good news: No damage to speak of. Happily, even their bumper, with its sticker depicting their prize-winning billboard message, went unharmed.