In an attempt to rid the country’s roads of a very old – and potentially very lethal – scourge, Highways England introduced a decades-old video game character into an altogether unfamiliar media context to remarkably successful effect.

Highways England is a government-owned company charged with operating and improving the nation’s motorways and major roads. Its key imperative is safety on the network: the organisation has been set the challenging KPI of reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads by 40% by 2020.

It had run a series of advertising campaigns encouraging vehicle owners to carry out regular vehicle checks, and persuading drivers to slow down during inclement weather. Its next target was the practice of ‘tailgating’, where drivers leave insufficient room between them and the car in front, causing accidents when vehicles slow down or come to a sudden halt.

In most instances, the close proximity between vehicles comes as a result of absent-mindedness, rather than overt aggression or deliberate speeding. “I’m not talking about those Audi or BMW drivers who might drive really close behind you when you’re on the motorway – I’m talking about those who are unintentionally driving closer,” joked Alison Holliday, Highway England’s Head of Marketing and Events, at Radiocentre’s Tuning In conference (London, May 2019).