Winners 2019

Best media relations campaign

M1 Week of Action
Highways England

The M1, England’s oldest motorway, carrying more than 500,000 cars every day along its 193 miles that link London to Leeds. But it is also one of the country’s most dangerous roads with, on average, one collision every two hours.

Highways England, a government company responsible for maintaining, operating and improving the country’s motorways and major A roads, launched its M1 Week of Action campaign to change driver behaviour and reduce the number of collisions by at least ten per cent.

The campaign, which ran between 13 to 19 May 2019, wanted to highlight the risks of dangerous drivers, particularly those using mobiles at the wheel, which is a factor in one death on the roads every 12 days.

Around 30 people are killed and more than 100 seriously injured every year as a result of an accident caused by a driver simultaneously using a handset.

Highways England has funded three unmarked HGV cabs, equipped with wide angle cameras, which are loaned to police forces to film dangerous driving. They have derestricted speed limiters, which means they can travel at speeds up to the national speed limit, and allows them to film evidence by driving alongside offending vehicles. Police cars following a short distance behind then pull over unsafe drivers.

For the M1 Week of Action, the unmarked cabs would patrol the 60-year-old motorway.

Prior to the launch of the campaign, Highways England released results from the cabs’ first year of operation, in which more than 3,500 offences had been recorded by 29 police forces. These results were captured in a HGV supercabs logbook, designed as an infographics, which revealed that 462 penalty notices had been issued, 73 prosecutions taken place and 3,296 drivers stopped – suggesting some committed multiple offences.

They also invited key national and regional television journalists to film alongside police in the cabs, while organising embargoed broadcast interviews with its safety spokespeople.

The organisation also rebranded the vehicles as supercabs, equating them to superheroes fighting crime and protecting lives, to counter any accusation that they were ‘spy cabs’ or ‘ghost trucks’, accusations levied during the cabs’ trial period by the media. The cabs’ ‘super qualities’ were highlighted, including their ability to travel up to 20 miles per hour faster than most HGV cabs and their flashing lights for emergency use.

As the Week of Action kicked off, Highways England released three video clips, filmed by police travelling in the cabs, of drivers using mobile phones, including one lorry driver with a credit card in one hand and a phone in the other making a payment while travelling at speed along the M40 close to Leamington Spa. It became the most watched video on BBC News website, beating a montage of the BAFTA TV Awards’ best bits.

The Week of Action was covered in 227 unique media sources, with a combined reach of 37.18 million – equivalent to each of England’s 32.9 million drivers being exposed to at least one media story about the campaign over the seven days, while Highways England’s social media activity generated more than 410,000 impressions.

But the campaign, which was devised and activated by Highways England’s in-house team, also generated tangible results. The number of collisions on the M1 fell by 29 per cent to 64 compared to the previous week, while West Yorkshire and Northamptonshire Police reported a 25 per cent reduction in the proportion of mobile phone offences detected during the week.

‘This was a great campaign with a clear objective, and it worked,’ said the judges. ‘We loved it. This was a brilliant initiative from an in-house team, who achieved these results without any additional budget.’