Reducing alcohol-related traffic fatalities is one of NHTSA’s top priorities. The agency’s national goal is to lower the death toll to no more than 11,000 by the year 2005. To meet this challenge, Ogilvy launched the You Drink & Drive. You Lose. campaign on December 1, 1999, as part of National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention (3D) Month.

The goal of this media outreach campaign was to deliver the anti-impaired driving message and reduce the number of impaired driving fatalities to no more than 11,000 by the year 2005.  To meet this goal, program objectives included the following:

Through media exposure, position the You Drink & Drive. You Lose. campaign, its messages and NHTSA as a valuable resource in the battle on impaired driving.

Amplify the campaign message to the media by partnering with organizations and local community groups to increase awareness of the impaired driving problem, both nationally and locally.

To utilize the media, the team developed a series of initiatives that included original research, partnerships, third party endorsements, media events, extensive media relations and Web site development.  


The You Drink & Drive. You Lose. campaign aims at affecting behavioral change.  Recognizing that behavioral change is a multi-stage process Ogilvy realized that there is only so much that can be accomplished with a single presentation, PSA, brochure, video or media event.  In addition, to reach the different target audiences, a variety of messaging vehicles would be necessary for the effectiveness of the campaign.  


NHTSA research indicated that the majority of impaired driving offenses were committed by the three following groups:

  • Drinking age adults between the ages of 21 and 34
  • Young people between the ages of 15 and 20
  • Repeat offenders and high-Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) offenders

A series of focus groups were conducted with a combined total of 80 participants. Reactions to messages were obtained from principle target groups to assess their perceptions of impaired driving issues in general and specifically about possible campaign communication messages, potential overriding campaign themes and potential visual treatments of those themes.  Participants selected and rated media messages in accordance to relevance, interest, simplicity, clarity and effectiveness.  From the feedback, the campaign slogan selected (You Drink & Drive. You Lose.) identifies the target audiences' fears about drinking and driving such as the possible loss of license, vehicle or life.

Five target states were selected to focus on based on their alcohol-related crash incident rates.  Those states were Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas and Louisiana.  NHTSA partnered with these states departments of transportation to execute the national plan on a more intensified local level.


Organizations, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), already existed with similar goals of reducing deaths due to impaired driving.  The most important and instrumental aspect of our planning was to align the messages of these other groups with the You Drink & Drive. You Lose. message to provide a single unified voice and thus command greater attention.

To position the You Drink & Drive. You Lose campaign the following strategies were developed to guide the campaign:

Determine the motivators. Identifying and working from behavioral motivators gave depth and meaning to messages.  

Simplify the message to its essentials and hammer it home.  Repetition of the message via varied channels cut through the clutter.

Emphasize personal relevance. Through appeals to a larger sense of community and "doing the right thing" to a self-oriented message of "it could be you," the campaign strives to make the personal importance of responsible alcohol consumption and not drinking and driving clear to each member of our target audiences.

Emphasize ease of adoption and social acceptability.  To be effective, the campaign works to convince the target populations that adopting the behavior is not difficult and helps audiences perceive that the social norms will support their actions.


With Ogilvy's underlying media strategy, the campaign objectives were implemented by:

Providing increased exposure of the You Drink & Drive. You Lose. message by forging partnerships with safety and community groups, such as MADD, the 3D Coalition and the National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives, and law enforcement organizations, such as Operation C.A.R.E., the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

Utilizing partners as spokespersons during national media events in December and July.

Providing a united media message by coordinating a targeted five-state partnership with the state departments of transportation during the July 4th law enforcement mobilization.

Encouraging grassroots media outreach by developing three community outreach and education guides which incorporated media advice and tools such as public service announcements, radio scripts, letters to the editor, media Q & As, news releases, opinion-editorials, proclamations, camera-ready art, posters, fliers and  brochures encouraging users to harness the power of their local media for promotion of the You Drink &  Drive. You Lose. campaign.  Each of the following kits were sent to more than 60,000 organizations:

Zero Tolerance Means Zero Chances Peer Action Guide, provides young people with the tools they can use to make school-based underage drinking prevention efforts more effective.

Sobriety Checkpoints and Saturation Patrols How To Guide, provides law enforcement agencies the media materials to promote successful and effective sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols, as well as informs community groups and individuals on how to assist and encourage these efforts.

Designated Driver/Safe Ride Programs Community Action Guide, provides techniques and tools for individuals or any size group/organization for implementing and publicizing successful designated driver and safe rides programs.


This campaign was successful by reaching out not only to national media outlets, but in energizing and coordinating community groups to use the You Drink & Drive. You Lose. materials to make news in local newspapers across the nation.  A few examples of the campaign’s reach follow:

Campaign Launch at National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month Event

December 1 through December 31, 1999

  • 64,554,066 Newspaper Impressions      
  • 809 Newspaper Placements, including the New York Daily News, Chicago Sun Times and USA Weekend Supplement.
  • 28 Television Placements including affiliates in New York, DC, Charlotte,  Chicago and San Francisco.
  • Online placement on CNNfn and Fox News Online’s Health Front.

National Sobriety Checkpoint Week Kickoff Event

June 29 – July 4, 2000

  • 51,882,236 Newspaper Impressions
  • 530 Newspaper Placements, including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer and Washington Times.
  • 439 Television Placements, including the CBS Evening News National, Univision National News, as well as local affiliates in New York, DC, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia.
  • 4 Online News Placements, including