Every year, the Ad Council works with Project Yellow Light, a national public service advertising (PSA) contest and scholarship program, to increase awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. The winning video, radio and design PSAs receive nationwide exposure through TV spots, iHeartRadio channels, and Clear Channel Outdoor billboards. While the design entry phase has already ended, the television and radio entry period closes on April 1st, and we’re so excited to see who wins this year’s contest! Recently we talked to two of our past billboard design winners, Bethany and Emily, about their PYL experience.
Ad Council: What got you interested in design?
Bethany: I have always really loved creating things. My brother was a Cub Scout, and I got started by submitting a design to the Boy Scout Council.
AC: How did you find out about the Project Yellow Light Competition?
Bethany: My mom has a really long commute and I guess there are a couple of Clear Channel Outdoor billboards on her route. One day she told me about a billboard promoting Project Yellow Light, and she was able to get me the URL and I entered from there. I made a couple of other designs first.
Emily: I found this competition while searching scholarship apps for money for college. I was intrigued by this specific scholarship because it did not require writing, but other modes of creativity. I had a little bit of experience in Photoshop from my school’s yearbook and decided to try to play around with some different ideas for the billboard competition.
AC: Can you explain how you came up with your idea and how you put it into practice?
Bethany: I did a whole bunch of things with alliteration and rhyming but I didn’t like it. Then I had an idea: My mother would make me write grammar errors again and again as a kid and it popped into my head and I thought “I can work with this and it will be really cute.”
Emily: I explained the competition to my parents and uncle one night at dinner and we started brainstorming ideas. “Better left unread than dead” or something similar came up during the conversation and when I got home I designed and submitted the billboard that same night. I knew with an important message I would need a simple and recognizable theme and image to accompany it, and went for a pure black background with the iconic texting bubble that everyone would recognize.
AC: How do you feel about texting and driving?
Bethany: I never text and drive, I never want my brother to text and drive. I encounter texting and driving all the time. I look around and see people texting, doing makeup, all kinds of crazy things. I see it a lot and it really makes me crazy. Texting and driving should never enter your mind. If something were to happen it would affect everything in your life.
Emily: Unfortunately, you don’t have to look far to find people texting and driving. I can see people texting and driving, or simply distracted driving, every day on the roads and especially freeways. I am proud to say I encounter texting and driving very little in my family life. This competition has affected my life because now everyone I know who sees my billboard has told me they have become more cautious and aware drivers because of the cause.
AC: What are your future plans?
Bethany: I’m a student at Gwinnett Technical College, majoring in Web Development, and this is my last semester. I want to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree and I want to stay on the design and technology side. I hope to find someone who will hire me for my design.
Emily: I graduated high school last year and am currently attending San Diego State University in California. I’ve gotten really involved at SDSU since school started in the Fall and am a part of a handful of organizations around campus. One thing that this scholarship helped me realize was my love for design, marketing, and creating things; this contributed to my decision to take marketing chair positions on different committees. My plans for after college are pretty far in advance at this point but my end goal is to take the LSAT and go to law school.
AC: How did you react when you heard you had won the contest?
Bethany: I had just eaten lunch with my friend and my phone rang, it was an unknown number. I almost let it go to voicemail and I’m so glad I didn’t. I called the friend I had just left and said “I just won a contest, do you want to go to New York with me?” It was so amazing. I got to see my design in Times Square, it was unbelievable.
AC: If you could say one thing to your peers about texting and driving what would it be?
Emily: I would emphasize the fact that texting and driving is not worth it. Whatever the message is, it can wait. There is nothing more important than your or another individual’s life. I would also urge people to be more mindful of when they’re texting someone. If you send a text while you know someone is driving, you are also contributing to the possibility of a crash.
If you know a talented student who would be interested in creating a PSA, send them to ProjectYellowLight.com for official rules, scholarship award information, submission guidelines, and tips and resources.