Saturday, May 25, 2019

NLA Marlton, N.J. — In what has become a viral sensation in just a month’s time, the National Limousine Association’s (NLA’s) latest PSA “The Signs”—its second featuring actress and sexual assault survivor Pamela Anderson—is breaking all records and boosting the confidence of everyone involved in the campaign that the message is finally resonating to a larger audience. The PSA was launched in early January and has already outperformed every other NLA campaign in 2017 combined, according to NLA President Gary Buffo of Pure Luxury Transportation.

“We’ve had 1.4 billion impressions in just 14 days,” said NLA Secretary Scott Solombrino of Dav El/BostonCoach regarding the PSA. “In comparison, all of the press releases that NLA produced last year barely hit 1 billion impressions, combined. We’ve had a massive effect against these companies that have tens of millions of dollars for public relations.”

Buffo and the NLA Public Relations Committee, co-chaired by Solombrino and Jason Kaplan of The Driver Provider, have been working with Evins Communications for the past three years to develop a multi-tiered strategy to combat TNCs to achieve a level playing field—and to have regulators take notice of the dangers that the riding public is subject to without one. The timing for this PSA, however, couldn’t have been better as sexual harassment scandals have exploded across numerous industries, spurring the #MeToo movement.

“Pam deserves a lot of credit,” said Kaplan. “We’re not a huge conglomerate that’s paying her tons of money to be a spokesperson. It’s not about that. It’s a personal and passionate cause for her, and she has gone above and beyond to take on this battle. She believes in this so strongly that she’s become a better spokesperson than we could have ever hoped for.”

“When I first embarked on my quest to raise awareness about the safety risks associated with ride-hailing apps, I had no idea of the frequency or disturbing nature of the incidents,” said Anderson. “It is digital hitchhiking. These apps are optimized for predators and will remain so until common sense safety measures are put in place.”

NLA PSA The NLA began working with Anderson last year with its “The Driving Game” PSA, featuring Anderson taking on the bubbly, flirty persona that she has become known for. The NLA has garnered national press through its Ride Responsibly campaign, such as its summer 2017 partnership with nonprofit Jobs With Justice, to highlight the responsibilities that Uber and Lyft have shirked regarding their drivers—often leaving those drivers chasing trips far from their homes or working insane hours for a low payout. The Huffington Post took notice of that campaign and reported on it in August of last year. Compounding a very bad year, which included proven claims of sexual harassment and a frat-like working environment at its headquarters, Uber quickly scrambled for its PR life and ousted its longtime CEO Travis Kalanick—but not before a #DeleteUber hashtag caught fire.

This time around, “The Signs” PSA—with a more serious tone and a focus directed toward corporate customers and corporate travel buyers—caught the attention of publications like The New York Times, Today With Megyn Kelly, and was even featured in entertainment website TMZ’s daily rundown. Kelly had a sit-down interview with the actress, where she recalled times in Hollywood where she was promised cars or homes if she would be a director’s or a producer’s “number-one girl,” but that she walked away without exception. Anderson has also been open about her abuse by a babysitter and a later rape when she was a preteen, and she now works closely with nonprofit PAVE, which aims to empower students, parents, and civic leaders to end sexual violence with prevention education. PAVE, founded by rape survivor Angela Rose in 2001, also cosponsored the PSA.

"The question is, whether [Uber & Lyft’s background checks] are as tough as ones you get through a pre-arranged service. The bottom line is be smart, be safe, and never get into any car with someone who is a stranger to you,” said Kelly during the program.

Anderson will also make a stop at LCT’s Las Vegas show this March, where she will have a one-on-one conversation with Solombrino about her involvement in future campaigns. They have invited the national press and Solombrino is confident that it will continue to media momentum that they have built thus far.

“We’re on a mission to get fingerprinting and drug testing as a standard in all states for all TNC drivers. We’re trying to elevate the level of consciousness of the general riding public. No sane person would ever get on an airplane if they didn’t think that the FAA had drug testing requirements for pilots,” said Solombrino.

“I’ve had numerous meetings with California legislators and they get it, but they won’t stop or slow down the progress of these companies for the sake of innovation. And if they have to ignore safety and regulations for innovation, then they will—and do,” said Buffo about why regulators have largely given technology companies a pass on corporate responsibility regarding its workers and customers.

The NLA is working on another PSA that will be released later this spring, one that Solombrino says will hit on all the pillars that they think are important to get across to the riding public and regulators. He says that the next will ultimately build on what they have wanted to communicate so far.

“In 2017, we created and built upon the public’s awareness of the downside of TNCs with Evins’ guidance. In 2018, we’re making that impact. And now with the #MeToo movement, it’s helped to make it a global issue where TNCs are a landscape that need to be examined and truly made safer for consumers,” said Kaplan.

We’ll have more in-depth look at the NLA’s campaign and its explosive PSA in the next issue of Chauffeur Driven.

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