Too Sexy For Safety?


By Phil La Duke

I’ve referenced before the innovative work being done by IMPROV SAFETY (an outgrowth of the driving school that has been successful for many years.)  The idea (supported by much research, by the way) is that things that make people laugh tend to stick with them longer than things that bore them. “We Entertain to Retain” is a popular way in which the concept is explained.

I’m prejudiced in favor of the company because I became friends with founder Gary Alexander who reached out to me on LinkedIn and wanted my advice about the feasibility of making funny safety videos that carried an important message. Gary and his team are a smart bunch and didn’t need a lot of advice from me (it was more of a confirmation that what they thought was a good idea was indeed a good idea.) What started out as being funny safety videos evolved into a series of micro lessons (one objective taught in less than 4 minutes) that could be used in safety messaging, in toolbox talks, as icebreakers in meetings, assets in instructor-led training, or even as part of a eLearning.

The first offering is titled “Making Safer Choices”—not exactly controversial, but when IMPROV SAFETY tried to buy an ad in one of the leading safety magazines he was told that the ad (pictured above) did not fit the editorial guidelines—effectively it was TOO racy.  The video series stars Pamela Anderson (who was selected chiefly because she was the original Tool Girl on the Tim Allen series Tool Time whose running joke was Tim getting hurt because he didn’t follow safety protocols.

The basic premise is that Pamela Anderson and the narrator set up content around decision making. Characters Victor (a worker that makes safer choices) and Derk (notorious in his own right, Kato Kaelin) who always seems to chose poorly act out a funny skit illustrating the point. And the scene is debriefed by Pamela Anderson and the narrator.  Each segment ends with some version of  the tag-line “Don’t Be A Derk”. Seems harmless enough, but perhaps some believe 50ish Pamela Anderson is still too sexy for safety.

I know Pamela Anderson was in Baywatch, but I have never watched an episode (who needs to see David Hasselhoff topless?) and posed for Playboy, but apart from her quasi-notoriety is there any reason that a photo of her fully clothed should be rejected as too provocative? As a professional provocateur myself I take no small umbrage at the fact that one’s past poor choices could tarnish one forever, but if your reasoning for thinking that Pamela Anderson is inappropriate is because of her past, let me ask you this: Who better to narrate a video on making better choices than someone who has made some bad ones?  But beyond that, what right does a magazine editor have to reject an ad as too provocative without being able to point specifically to what could be done to the add to make it more appropriate, apart from removing Pamela Anderson? Would the editor react the same way if instead of Pam Anderson the ad featured Bill Cosby?

I ran into Gary at the Michigan Safety Conference—the energy around his booth was electric. I very talented magician David Bondafini  entertained crowds with magic tricks that always seemed to have a safety message artfully entwined with the trick itself. Behind him was a large copy of the ad above, nobody seemed to have too much of a problem with it.

The conference had other booths displaying massagers that featured topless women (from behind) using self massagers.  I wondered if there adds would be rejected, were they to be submitted to a safety magazine.  Pick up a copy of GQ or Men’s Health or Cosmopolitan or Boys Life and you will find more provocative ads than this one.  Is the safety media so soft headed that they fear anything beyond ads for traffic cones and machine guarding will over stimulate safety professionals?  Let’s face it the LAST thing we need are over stimulated safety professionals. In an industry that is already nauseatingly over parental do we really need to censor this type of advertising? Isn’t this just a bit over the top? So much for advertising my blog with tastefully shot black & white photos of me nude.

I made my speech and afterwards a gentleman came up and said, “how do you make safety more exciting, you know make it sexy?” How indeed.

Interestingly enough, not all safety media outlets are quite as prudish, ISHN recently ran an article Pamela Anderson At Your Next Training Event (sans photo). It’s good to know one of my favorite safety magazines isn’t so hung up on Pamela Anderson’s past to know the value she can add to a boring safety event.