Simple language works best in public campaign advertisements

An advertisement by the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Road Safety Council and Sgcarmart.com reads: "Get a ride home. Don't drive to drink, and you will never drink and drive."

It took me a while to figure out what the message was.

At first, I thought it was saying that if you drive to drink, you will never drink and drive again because you will surely die in a road accident.

Why didn't the ad just say that to avoid having to drive after drinking, don't drive?

A plain "don't drink and drive" would also have sufficed, as there is strength in simplicity.

It is well and clever to use catchy phrases in ads, but if people cannot grasp a message's meaning at the first reading, they will likely ignore it.

Messages in public campaigns should use plain, easy-to-understand language so that they get the right message across.

Michael Loh Toon Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2017, with the headline 'Simple language works best in public campaign advertisements'. Print Edition | Subscribe