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Ad Nauseam

Honda to Sleeping, Distracted and Aggressive Drivers: Don’t Sweat It.

1:53 PM EST on November 13, 2012

Honda's new "We Know You" campaign includes a series of 16-second spots, presented as a medley of sorts in the ad above, which touts the safety features of the new Accord.

The Accord comes with a "drift warning" that alerts the driver when the car has entered another lane, a "forward collision warning" light that flashes and beeps when a sudden stop is required, and a "blind spot display" screen that, per Honda, facilitates quick lane changes. The gist of the ads is that attentive driving is no longer necessary -- Honda has got your back.

The most egregious, and telling, commercial of the campaign has to be "Tired You," which depicts a white collar type chugging coffee as he tries in vain to stay awake while driving on a flat, straight deserted road. When his Accord crosses the center line, the alarm sounds, the man jerks awake -- and keeps driving.

"We know you," says the voice actor, over a soothing piano track. "We know you have to rise early, and work late, with not enough sleep in between."

The core message of this campaign is that it's acceptable to drive without focusing on the task of driving. The voiceover may as well be: "Too sleepy or distracted to drive? Hey, everybody does it. But if you buy a new Honda, it's slightly less likely that you'll kill yourself, your family, or someone else's loved ones."

But will these features even bring a net safety gain? Honda has adopted the "forgiving" highways approach, and when you design to accommodate risky behavior, more will take risks. Said Streetsblog Network site Stop and Move, which brought the ads to our attention: "I wonder what the reaction would be if Honda had branded their feature as a way to drive drunk 'safely.'"

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