'Don't Jerk and Drive' Ad Too Racy for South Dakota

Critics thought safety ad's use of 'jerk' was too close to masturbation term
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2014 1:14 PM CST

"Hilarious," "provocative," even "genius" is how some are describing South Dakota's latest public safety campaign, but they can now add "gone" to that list. The state pulled its "Don't Jerk and Drive" initiative—meant to remind drivers not to abruptly pull the steering wheel to overcorrect on icy roads—after critics complained about the association of the word "jerk" with masturbation, the Argus Leader reports. "This is an important safety message and I don't want this innuendo to distract from our goal to save lives on the road," the Department of Public Safety's secretary said in a statement Wednesday, per the AP. The director of the Highway Safety office says the double entendre was purposeful—"The message is that we'd prefer drivers keep their cars out of the ditch and their minds out of the gutter," he tells the Leader.

But a state rep says some locals didn't appreciate the humor. "I think [the ad] was a terrible error in judgment," Rep. Mike Verchio tells the Leader. Micah Aberson, a strategist who helped work on the campaign, disagrees, saying catchphrases in the 30-second animated ad such as "Nobody likes a jerker" and a #DontJerkAndDrive Twitter hashtag have helped reach the safety department's target market: young men, who are the ones most likely to jerk the wheel and cause fatal car accidents. Facebook page views have jumped significantly compared to previous department safety campaigns, as have interaction rates on Twitter. (A risqué ad five Christmases ago angered Catholics.)

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