TfL ‘Share The Road’: Behind the scenes

ECD Elspeth Lynn and Senior Account Director Michael Wilton offer up insider knowledge on the making of Transport for London’s latest campaign to combat road rage…

This is a big departure from recent PSAs – what’s the key thinking behind it?

There’s so much strong feeling about road rage, we knew finger-wagging would fail to cut through with all audiences – quite the opposite, it would create divides. We needed an idea that enabled us to execute an ad without allocating blame.

The average road safety campaign enforces common sense messages (look both ways before crossing, check your speed etc.) which means they can skip straight to a call to change behaviour. While that’s the ultimate goal with this ad, when it comes to road rage, before you can change behaviour, you really need to change attitudes…

So where did ‘Share The Road’ come from?

The initial script was called ‘Verse of Reason’, and the idea gradually evolved into having a physical character – the bystander – who would urge viewers to think, ‘if I stepped away and viewed things objectively, that is how I would see it’. For that, we needed to cast a down-to-earth, everyday Londoner, and we managed exactly that with narrator Nadine.

Why have Nadine speaking in verse?

In the same way that the black and white treatment and slow-motion take the sting out of the anger being exhibited, having a poetic voice acts as a natural foil, and enabled us to land the idea in a way that was simultaneously hard-hitting, but also beautiful and soft, making it an ad you actually want to watch.

STR stills as four

Filming on London streets is tough – did you have any of your own #ShareTheRoad moments?!

All the time, everywhere! In one shoot, some school kids respond aggressively to a driver that’s come to a sudden stop. Filming happened to coincide with kick-out time from the local secondary, so the actor had to contend with a few more feisty kids than he’d bargained for…

So you must have shot some great ‘authentic’ reactions?

Definitely – we deliberately tried to capture natural looks of shock from observers, then dispatched an army of runners with release forms!

What was it like having director Yann Demange on board?

This wasn’t your typical locked down script. It was a series of acted performances that absolutely had to feel real. Yann helped sculpt every scene so there was a balanced spread of emotions on display throughout, making the flip of Nadine’s ‘voice of reason’ all the more pronounced.

What has the social response been like since the campaign broke?

Great. It’s a tough brief – if you err too far one way, you’re going to create further divisions and anger about the issue, too far the other and the ad is just vanilla, and inspires no reaction at all. This campaign was always going to create debate – we wanted to embrace that. If people aren’t talking about an ad, they certainly won’t be thinking about it, and without thought, you’re unlikely to see any true changes in behaviour…