Ah, the art of the public service announcement.
How do you communicate important safety information in a way that’s eye-grabbing and compelling to today’s public? The above image, spotted in north Minneapolis, can be best described as “an attempt.”
There are actually a few of these scattered around the Twin Cities and beyond, and they have drivers scratching their heads and turning to the internet for possible interpretations. It’s a PSA about texting while driving—people seem to get that much.
But what’s with the two mustached emojis and the barber pole? Why does one of the emojis have bright red hair and, weirdly, a black mustache? Is there a rhyme or a pun somewhere in there going straight over our heads, or nah?
“Text just don’t text and barber pole car,” one local Redditor offered.
“Text Sean Connery haircut Conan O’Brien?” another tried.
“Text and be a barber, just don’t text and BE A CAR.”
A few discussions on other corners of the internet find commenters equally perplexed. More than a few worried they were going to end up crashing their cars just trying to crack this one. It’s like an impressionist painting; the shapes and colors all seem to make sense, but when you start to look too close, it just looks like a meaningless mess.
One helpful internet citizen found the company that made the billboard: the Advertising Council’s PSA Central. You can browse their website for more of their projects, some of which you’ve probably seen in other pockets of the metro—like this Alzheimer’s Awareness campaign.
The billboard in question is part of the “Text and Whatever” campaign, and the title of the design is “Text and Haircut.” Literally, just “Text and Haircut.” It has a few siblings featuring other emojis, like “Text and Dance,” and “Text and Eat.”
Text and anything, the campaign insists, just don't text and drive.
It was created pro bono with the help of creative agency Pereira O’Dell, and launched in 2018. The idea was to create a campaign that pointed out a very serious safety concern without shaming people for being a little attached to their phones.
“Whether or not you love to be on your phone, the road is no place for that,” Pereira O’Dell creative director Jason Apaliski told an industry mag back in 2018. Nonetheless, according to the United States Department of Transportation, distracted driving killed over 2,800 Americans in that year alone.
“Ok I get it,” one Redditor said after reviewing these facts. “But it’s stupid!”
The council didn’t respond to interview requests, so we don’t know how effective the campaign has been, or if they’ve gotten similar questions or complaints from viewers. But regardless whether the billboard’s effective, we could all stand to take its advice—not just because texting while driving is dangerous, but because it’s now illegal in Minnesota to mess with your phone at all while behind the wheel.
Previously in billboards, explained: