The Ad Council recently teamed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) and ad agency Organic to launch a campaign to prevent distracted driving among Gen Z and millennials.

The campaign, dubbed Really Scary, underscores the risks associated with driving while using the phone — whether it’s for texting, checking e-mail, watching videos or simply mindlessly scrolling behind the wheel.

The organizations said the campaign builds on the Distracted Driving Prevention effort between the Ad Council and NHTSA. The more than decade-long relationship between the two organizations has historically focused on texting while driving. 

However, the use of cell phones and mobile technology has continued to grow at an exponential rate over the last decade and is no longer limited to texting while behind the wheel.

Crashes associated with distracted driving due to phones have increased from 2012 to 2021, with 14% of injury crashes in 2021 being linked to distracted driving, according to data from the NHTSA.

The risks of distracted driving are abundant and life-threatening, though the Really Scary ad highlights these concerns by going underwater.

In the 30-second campaign video, a scuba diver unexpectedly swims into a menacing shark. 

The ad compares deep sea dangers to a seemingly mundane activity nearly everyone has been guilty of – texting or looking at your phone while driving – which can increase the risk of crashes.

“Eyes forward,” the PSA’s voiceover states. “Don’t drive distracted.”

The PSA hits on the idea that drivers are simultaneously terrified of irrational threats like sharks but also remain unconcerned about the dangers of distracted driving. The goal of the commercial is to change how drivers, especially younger ones, perceive the risks of driving while distracted and augment their behaviors accordingly.

“We were inspired to tap into the idea of fear because of the target’s fascination with being frightened and scared,” said Andrew Carlson, chief creative officer at Organic, in a statement. “We wanted to work against that to show something truly fearful – distracted driving.”

Really Scary is the Ad Council’s latest public health PSA, as the organization has been churning out campaigns in recent weeks spanning topics from mental health to substance abuse to Alzheimer’s disease.

Earlier this year, the Ad Council also rolled out a gun suicide PSA in collaboration with nonprofit Brady and creative agency Dentsu. It also released “Some Things Come with Age,” a video series seeking to improve Alzheimer’s detection in the Latino community.

More recently, Megan Thee Stallion starred in another Ad Council-powered PSA, Check In On Your Friends, which focuses on mental health awareness among young people.