TDOT paying $11.5M for new anti-DUI ad campaign

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is spending $11.5 million — some state money, most federal — on a new anti-DUI campaign to replace one cancelled recently after being roundly criticized as sexist, reports The Tennessean.

The state last week hired Austin-based Tuerff-Davis Enviromedia Inc., which won the $11.5 million contract to oversee the Governor’s Highway Safety Office media campaign. The state will pay $2.5 million with the remainder of the costs covered by the federal government. Earlier this year, state officials emphasized all of the funding for the controversial anti-DUI campaign came from the federal government.

The new campaign will focus not only on programs aimed at stopping impaired driving but other highway safety issues including motorcycle safety and seat belt use, according to contract documents.

…The new contract comes on the heels of the state apologizing, then cancelling its former anti-DUI campaign run by a Knoxville-based marketing firm after the campaign went viral. In mid-July, the state took down an anti-DUI website after coming under intense criticism for the slogans it used, including those that referred to girls looking “hotter” to guys under the influence and being “chatty” or “clingy.” Many, including state lawmakers and Tennessee residents, deemed the campaign sexist.

…Tuerff-Davis Enviromedia beat three Nashville-based companies to earn the bid. The details of the other bid packages were not immediately available.

Proposed work for the new contract began Dec. 9 and runs through December 2020.

State officials did not immediately respond to inquiries about the new marketing firm, including exactly where the state money will come from or why it is now being used to help pay for the contract.

Contract related documents list the rate of pay per hour for several employees as high as $175 per hour (for creative director) and as low as $40 per hour (for intern). The public relations employee would make $140 per hour, or if salaried full time, $291,000 annually. By comparison, Tennessee’s transportation commissioner makes $158,556 each year.