In an attempt to combat youth knife violence and crime in England, the Metropolitan Police have enlisted AMV BBDO to help teach teens to stay clear of knife violence. The result? A YouTube campaign that encourages viewers to "Choose a Different Ending."
An initial video places the viewer in a social atmosphere with friends, then asks the viewer to make a decision: Take the knife, or don't take the knife. The story continues to unfold (there are a surprising amount of videos and ways the story can pan out--getting through the whole campaign takes a good amount of time), until the viewer comes to the predictable conclusion. Don't take the knife, you can end up dancing with a pretty girl at a fun party. Take the knife, you can end up in jail.
The message is a good one and the videos are entertaining, but will it be effective? An entertaining, interactive PSA on YouTube is still a PSA, and while it's a nice thought, it's hard to imagine that this will really prevent teens from participating in knife crime. The YouTube statistics aren't incredibly promising--at the end of the first video, 166,000 have chosen the "Take the Knife" option, while 162,000 have chosen "Don't Take the Knife." Is it curiosity, or a reflection of the issue at hand?
England has been working to tackle knife crime since July 2008, and the new, teen-friendly ads come at a time when the campaign has been less than successful. While teenage knife crime has decreased 17% since the Home Office began its assault on knife violence, those reductions are concentrated in bigger cities such as London and Birmingham. In other areas--Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, and Thames Valley--knife crime has actually increased.