Kazakhstan: Unusual Campaign Uses Sheep to Advertise Road Safety

On July 17, residents of Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, were amused to see new banners and billboards posted throughout the city with a stinging message: “People follow rules when crossing the road. Sheep [cross the road] wherever they wish”.

The banners and billboards aim at saving people's lives by educating them about the importance of following simple rules when crossing the road. They were produced and erected jointly by the Almaty Culture Department, a local advertising agency, and traffic police.

These billboards are part of a new social advertising program designed to change popular attitudes in areas ranging from the observance of traffic rules to preservation of natural resources. As Almaty Culture Department notes [ru]:

Что может повлиять на поведение людей, пробудить в них ответственность за себя и за других? Только социальная реклама с сильным эмоциональным посылом.

What can have an impact on people's behavior, leading them to become more responsible? Only social advertising with a strong emotional message.

This billboard is part of a new social advertising campaign in Almaty. Image by Almaty Culture Department, used with permission.

The stinging message on the billboards has triggered discussion among the country's social media users. Commenting on the above image posted by the Almaty Culture Department (AlmatyMADENIET) on Facebook, Ruslan Kuvatov wrote [ru]:

Отличный постер. Надеюсь их много будет по городу. Еще надо сделать креатив на тему культурного вождения и уважения друг к другу на дроге. Короче говоря надо идентифицировать баранов за рулем :).

Great poster. I hope we will have many of these around the city. Now we also need to produce something creative about the culture of driving and respecting each other on the road. In short, we need to identify sheep behind the wheel :).

While most netizens appear to like the new ads, some people consider them offensive. Kazakh blogger Gizatm suggested [ru]:

Просто нельзя называть людей баранами за то, что они переходят дорогу в неположенном месте. В США и Канаде тоже так же переходят… Если машины за км нет, то почему бы и не перейти.

One must not call people sheep because they break rules when crossing the street. In the USA and Canada, people also cross the street this way… If there are no cars [on the road] within a kilometer, why shouldn't one cross the road?

The authorities had to respond [ru] to such criticisms:

Мы никого конкретно не называли баранами. Это шуточный плакат с небольшой издевкой… Мы хотели максимально привлечь внимание аудитории.

We did not call anybody sheep. This is a facetious poster, with a modicum of mockery… We just wanted to grab the attention of as wide an audience as possible.

Yet, many netizens liked the initiative and suggested alternative ways of saving people's lives on the road. Salken Balbayev wrote [on] on Facebook:

Хороший проект. Еще хотелось бы, чтобы сами пешеходные переходы освещались в темное время суток и знаки были видны издалека.

Good project. It would also be nice to have crossings illuminated when it's dark and traffic signs visible from a distance.

Overall, most netizens in Kazakhstan have been pleased to see that the authorities address a real issue in such a creative way. They've also been happy to notice that the officials responded to their suggestions and comments. Following the successful start of the social advertisement campaign, the Culture Department released [ru] a new message for ads aiming to discourage people from talking on the phone while driving: “This call can be the last one”.

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

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