It’s something that happens all too often: Lessons start in ten minutes and your seven-yearold needs to leave for school, but there’s once again been a tantrum about what they’re going to wear. Although the school isn’t far away, you’re in such a rush that you decide to take them in the car. Whilst turning left, you take your eye off the oncoming traffic for a split second and that’s all it takes: you have an accident. The car is damaged and both you and the child have to be taken to hospital. With all the hurrying around, you had forgotten to fasten your own seat belt and check whether the child is wearing theirs.

It’s because of situations like these that 10,000 children a year are injured in car accidents in Germany. Statistics issued by the Federal Highway Research Institute in 2009 paint a worrying picture: one third of six to twelve-year-olds in non-built-up areas (37%) and almost half in built-up areas (42%) are either not protected by a seat belt system appropriate to their age or not protected at all. Almost all children aged five and under, however, are correctly protected (98%).

The Allianz Center for Technology (AZT) used this state of affairs as an opportunity to study how six to twelve-year-olds are kept safe in cars. As the research institute of Allianz Deutschland GmbH, the AZT has been conducting research into issues surrounding accidents, safety and repair for more than 70 years. They conducted numerous experiments to illustrate the different effects of effective and ineffective seat belt systems. The results are clear: children require a car seat appropriate to their age in order to be sufficiently protected. It’s also extremely important to ensure that the seat belt is worn correctly.

?? To directly address six to twelve-year-olds, emphasise the importance of effective in-car safety and encourage them to fasten their seat belts correctly on their own
?? To address their parents, raise awareness of the seat belt law and the issue of in-car child safety
?? To involve multipliers such as teachers and police road safety instructors
?? To raise overall awareness of the issue of in-car child safety

As many primary school children fasten their seat belts on their own – and find fastening and unfastening them a way to relieve boredom – Allianz Deutschland AG were especially keen to address six to twelve-year olds directly.
But how do you go about reaching this young target group and getting them interested in a subject as unpopular as the seat belt law? Allianz decided to explore the issue in a film appropriate for the target age group. In order to communicate the message that “fastening your seat belt correctly can save your life” to children without giving the impression of finger-wagging, Allianz enlisted the help of well-known children’s TV presenter Willi Weitzel. Since 2002, he’s been explaining all kinds of topics to children in his highly popular programme Willi wills wissen (Willi Wants to Know) on German TV, including what it’s like to be an astronaut and how a newspaper is published. His ability to explain complicated things in a simple and straightforward way has led to him being seen as a source of knowledge by the target group – someone who doesn’t patronise them and seems almost like a big brother.

For the most part, the film Willi Weitzel hat’s geschnallt (Buckle up with Willi Weitzel) was shot at the Allianz Center for Technology in order to keep the shoot simple and costs relatively low. Only two other people appear in the film alongside Willi: Rosanna, a nine-year-old girl, and Carsten Reinkemeyer, a safety expert at the institute. Hamburg-based TV production company M hoch 4 were responsible for creating and producing the film.

Working closely with the German Road Safety Council and the Automobilclub von Deutschland (the German Automobile Club), the film was distributed free of charge to all 36,000 schools in Germany and to the police. Furthermore, to make the film accessible to as many people as possible, it was added to a range of video websites and made available for download online.

In addition, a press conference was held at the Berlin office of Allianz Deutschland AG to mark the launch of the film. Willi Weitzel and representatives of the German Road Safety Council and the German Automobile Club were joined at the press conference by a group of Berlin children who were thrilled at the chance to attend the premiere. Their response proved that the target group understood the film and that its message had been well received.

Seven months of targeted media relations work drew attention to the film and to the issue of in-car child safety in general, with the focus being on daily newspapers and publications aimed at parents. For the purpose of integrating a link straight to the film, media work also encompassed online publications alongside print media. The consumer appeal of the print media was increased by including tips on how to keep children safe in the car.

The success of the film can be seen first and foremost in the positive reaction of the children themselves. They were not only gripped by the image of the crash dummy child flying through the air but also excited by just how easy they can keep themselves safe in the car.

Parents, teachers and police road safety instructors were particularly impressed with how suitable the project was for children. One teacher for example recreated the Lego experiment from the film with her class to playfully illustrate the importance of wearing your seat belt. Several police stations sent letters expressing their gratitude for the film, which is in many places now part of police road safety programmes.

The amount of media coverage generated also revealed the extent of the demand for information on the issue of in-car child safety. From June 2010 to January 2011, 300 reports were published in print and online media, achieving a circulation of 12.6 million – the equivalent of buying more than half a million euros worth of advertising.

The most pleasing result is the way in which many children now fasten their seat belts as a matter of course – or even actively promote in-car safety. Take the son of one Allianz employee, for example, who surprised his father by saying, “We can’t set off yet, dad. You haven’t even put your seat belt on yet.”