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.