Today Facebook commenters have compared the star of a new ad campaign to everything from “human foreskin” to “half the NSW Origin team".
Whether you warm to its jumbo-headed, floppy-chested mascot or recoil from it, Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission’s (TAC) new campaign, Meet Graham, grabs your attention.
It’s not an exaggeration to say Meet Graham is unlike any other campaign out there – not only because it represents the first time Google’s new interactive 3D technology, Google Tango, has been used in Australia, but also because it addresses a challenging issue by combining a three-pronged approach of art, science and marketing nous.
Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, known for her lifelike and often disturbing sculptures, is behind the creation of Graham, the pseudo-human creature that is “the only person designed to survive on our roads”.
Graham’s body looks like a deformed parody of our own; a radically altered being, designed to meet the extreme physical demands of a crash situation. Just how different he is becomes even clearer on the Meet Graham website, where you are able to explore his form in 360-degree clarity – even beneath his skin – with the Google Tango app.
For 30 years, the TAC has faced an ongoing problem: how do you find fresh and effective ways to drive home messages of road safety? How long can you shock people with graphic images until you need to find a new approach?
So how did this thinking lead to Graham?
“Everyone knows they’re vulnerable,” says TAC’s Road Safety Senior Manager, Samantha Cockfield, “but they don’t realise just how vulnerable.” Last year, TAC launched Towards Zero, a new “philosophical” approach to road safety campaigns, and Graham was a direct result of this more inward-looking direction. In an effort to make the causes and effects of road accidents more personal and relevant to the viewer, Cockfield says it was necessary to get people thinking about the vulnerability of their own bodies.
Graham – the original life-sized sculptural form – is currently on display at The State Library of Victoria. It took six months for Patricia Piccinini to make, working closely with trauma surgeon Christian Kenfield and road-safety engineer Dr David Logan to make sure the startlingly lifelike creation was underpinned with hard scientific research and medical accuracy.
Although Graham’s body uses materials such as silicon and real hair to achieve its humanness, he is ultimately designed to show us just how different we’d have to look to survive in the event of an accident.
That eerie juxtaposition between believability and grotesquerie is the power of this campaign: by getting us to think about what makes us human; what it is to have a real human body and to be fragile in the face of trauma. As an embodiment of artistic skill, scientific knowledge and philosophical provocation – a reminder both of what we are and what we are not – meeting Graham is as much a challenge as it is a pleasure.
*You can now Meet Graham online using Google Tango.