Diageo, a global leader in beverage alcohol, today announced plans to roll out a first-of-its-kind immersive virtual reality (VR) technology that will allow consumers of legal drinking age to experience the many pitfalls associated with irresponsible drinking. The effort, which will launch with a VR experience focused on the effects of drunk driving, is Diageo’s latest innovative approach to educate consumers about the importance of responsible decision-making when drinking. It is also an example of how the company is seeking new partners and investing in new technologies and platforms to respond to the changing consumer landscape.
The program is being spearheaded by Diageo’s Digital and Technology Partnerships teams, who have been engaging potential partners in helping support and build out the experience. Joining Diageo in the effort will be digital agency, VaynerMedia, who will help the company with the creative vision, production, development and distribution of this immersive experience.
“Despite the fact that drunk driving fatalities are at an all-time low*, this issue remains of critical importance to Diageo and the industry as a whole. We believe that virtual reality technology provides a powerful new opportunity to emphasize the importance of celebrating responsibly,” said James Thompson, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer, Diageo North America. “Enabling people to experience what it’s like to be the passenger in a car being driven by a drunk driver may resonate more with participants than disturbing statistics and crash photos. While we are still in the developmental phase of this project, we are eager to experiment with the technology to see how it can help advance our responsible drinking mission.”
Consumer interest in VR continues to grow rapidly, with the number of active VR users forecasted to reach 171 million by 2018**. Currently, 73% of millennials have expressed excitement to experience VR***, which is why Diageo is making a long-term commitment to the technology and over time will develop additional user experiences that will demonstrate the effects of alcohol abuse. Recognized globally for setting the standard in social responsibility and responsible marketing, this is the latest pacesetting initiative from Diageo to remind adults to drink responsibly. Whether it’s pioneering Safe Rides Home designated driver activations or leveraging apps such as Uber to remind consumers there are alternatives to getting home if they’ve been drinking, Diageo is continually looking for new and inventive ways to reach consumers via emerging platforms and technologies.
“While more than two-thirds (69%) of driving deaths are not related to drunk driving, many (20.9%) drunk driving fatalities involve hardcore drunk drivers – those with a BAC of 0.15 or higher,”**** continued Thompson. “Our hope is that this virtual reality experience will help inform responsible decision making for people, but will also enlist their advocacy in the ongoing fight against repeat, hardcore drunk drivers.”
This news comes on the heels of Diageo’s recent announcement of a strategic partnership with United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). The two-year partnership agreement, entitled “Road Safety Initiative for Cities,” will involve a collaboration to build institutional and individual capacity to reduce traffic death and injuries, and improve road safety globally. Scheduled to start in July 2016, training will be run in 15 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin and Central America, with a focus on countries with the highest death rates related to road traffic accidents. More than 60 countries will be invited to participate. The training activities will reach approximately 6,000 participants who will be a mix of government officials, young people, and other relevant stakeholders, through training workshops for government officials at the national and local levels, awareness-raising road shows for young people and high-level conferences on the issue.
“Every drinking and driving death is preventable, and we believe that even one is too many,” said Thompson. “While it’s encouraging to see that the number of alcohol related fatalities has fallen recently, there is more work to be done and we are committed to playing our role in eradicating harm caused by drunk driving.”
*Drunk driving fatalities have decreased 53% since 1982. Source: 2014 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, 2015.
**(Statista, “Statistics and facts about Virtual Reality (VR)”, 4/6/16)
***(Singularity Hub, “Meet the Consumer That Will Make or Break Virtual Reality Next Year”, 12/17/15)
**** Source: 2014 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, 2015.