Don’t Jerk And Drive: South Dakota Pulls Controversial Ad Campaign, But Says Double Meaning Was Intended

Don’t Jerk and Drive seems like it would have been a decent way to teach drivers to remain calm during winter driving conditions, but South Dakota officials have scrapped the plan after a controversy over its second, dirtier meaning.

This week, the state’s Office of Highway Safety decided to pull the Don’t Jerk and Drive campaign after residents got caught up in the masturbation reference.

As South Dakota officials confirmed, the double meaning was actually intended.

“The message is that we’d prefer drivers keep their cars out of the ditch and their minds out of the gutter,” Lee Axdahl, director of the office of Highway Safety, told the Argus Leader.

The campaign was intended to teach drivers to drive slowly and carefully in ice and snow. Drivers are advised to take their foot off the brakes and ease the car into the slide. Jerking the wheel can cause the car to go into a spin, officials warned.

South Dakota officials said the Don’t Jerk and Drive campaign was supposed to make waves among young men, a demographic more prone to dangerous driving. And it seemed to work, with a photo of the campaign receiving thousands of user votes on the link-sharing site Reddit.

“Just within a week of running, we’ve had 20,000 plus Twitter impressions. Our engagement levels on Twitter are two and three times the industry average,” said Micah Aberson, vice president of client service and business development at Lawrence & Schiller.

But not everyone is happy with the execution of the Don’t Jerk and Drive campaign. Rep. Mike Verchio, a Republican from Hill City who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said he’s heard from many people upset about the campaign.

“I think the intent clearly was… when you start to go off the road, you should take your foot off the gas and gently go back on,” Verchio said. “But it wasn’t defended very well that way. When they say ‘Yeah, there’s some double-meaning there,’ I think that was a terrible error in judgment.”

While some marketing experts said the Don’t Jerk and Drive campaign was actually brilliant — which could be right, given the widespread media attention it garnered and the fact that it got so many people talking about safe driving tips.