Documents Show Controversial Anti-DUI Campaign Budgeted at $800k

WSMV, July 29, 2015 -- The Channel 4 I-Team has learned the cost of a controversial ad campaign may have been much higher than originally revealed.

The campaign included TV and radio ads, social media, and bar coasters.The I-Team filed an open records request for more information about the highway safety campaign. In the documents, the I-Team uncovered the campaign cost a total of $846,000.

“It’s a huge bill,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville. “What do they say? Eight-hundred-thousand dollars, before you know it, you’re talking about real money.”

The controversial campaign was canceled and is no longer running.

One bathroom graffiti ad, called Legend of the Stall, reads, “Please flush twice, it’s a long way to the kitchen.” In fine print, the ad says it was paid for by the Governor’s Highway Safety Office.

Anyone who wants to get the full public safety message has to visit a website.

“Are you saying they’re supposed to look at a website on a urinal and remember that, and then go and search for this website?” Clemmons said.

The website encourages people to submit their own drinking stories. One submitted story says, “Twelve hours of drinking in an Atlantic City hotel on a work trip. Got a tattoo, punched our work customer, puked in a casino and slept in a hotel room. I still love tequila.”

Emails between the ad agency and state officials show, at one point, there was supposed to be a $100 prize for the best drinking story. That idea was eventually scrapped.

“It’s absolutely frustrating,” Clemmons said. “I’m speechless.”

The Governor’s Highway Safety Office declined the I-Team’s request for an interview.

“We’ve got a lot of problems in this state,” Clemmons said. “We can’t afford to be wasting taxpayers’ dollars and then violating the public trust by spending them as inappropriate and improper as this.”

The Governor’s Highway Safety Office sent an email saying they are not sure the exact amount spent on the campaign. The budget was $846,000, but the Tombras Group, the ad agency, said it would refund some of its creative fees.

There were other expenses, including the actors, production crew and website. Who pays for all of that is still being negotiated.

Emails show the campaign got glowing reviews from several layers of management at the Governor’s Highway Safety Office.