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Coast Guard PSA goes over the top!

From the outset, let me be clear: I am a strong supporter of the Coast Guard and its accomplishments for boating safety on our waterways. I believe most of us in the boating industry feel that way. So, I’m sure what you’re about to see will disappoint you, as it has me, if not make you outright angry! 

Now, please use the following link to view the Coast Guard’s new PSA (public service announcement): YouTube – USCGBoatingSafety’s Channel  

With the production of this PSA, the Coast Guard’s Division of Boating Safety has blundered into a well-deserved backlash. It’s ironic that the PSA concludes with a good, simple message — “Boat Responsibly” — while the division, itself, has failed to act responsibly. For the sake of what some must think is desirable shock effect, the Coast Guard has actually abandoned its number one message (life jackets) and chosen to cast boating in an ugly, tasteless and unjustified light.

“Offensive” is what Marine Retailers Association of America president Phil Keeter has labeled the PSA. He has issued a “Dealer Alert” calling on all MRAA members to contact Rear Admiral Kevin Cook, director of Prevention Policy.

“We must let the admiral know that this PSA is not acceptable to an industry that has worked hard to build a positive image of recreational boating while promoting the Coast Guard’s goals of increasing life jacket wear and reducing drinking on boats. We must urge him to stop further distribution,” Keeter says.

This PSA has actually taken the Coast Guard off message. When you look at it, the PSA blatantly promotes, even glamorizes, drinking aboard. Check it out again: The sun is shining, the scene inviting, the boaters most enticing and the beer . . . hey, let’s pass those bottles all around, two in each hand! It actually undermines the long-standing safety message, in which many years have been effectively invested, that boating and drinking are not socially acceptable anymore.

It is, therefore, disappointing that the Coast Guard has failed to see what this PSA really represents: the expenditure of good funds to produce a bad PSA that mixes the wrong message, seriously offends its boating safety partners, and totally ignores its own priority of life jacket use.

If you think this PSA should be dry-docked, you can write: Rear Admiral Kevin Cook, director of Prevention Policy, Prevention Policy Directorate (CG-54), U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, 2100 Second Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20593.

Or, you can contact Admiral Cook’s office by sending an email to his administrator at:


23 comments on “Coast Guard PSA goes over the top!

  1. Arch

    What is depicted in that video is reality (other than the fact that all the girls are models). Adults don’t wear life jackets while their boat is moored, anchored, or even drifting, especially in good weather and calm seas. Sure, it would be PC to show that, but it’s not reality. I do agree though that it seems to glorify drinking. I enjoy an occassional drink, but usually don’t drink when I’m boating, but that is because I’m the one driving. So I think they could have downplayed that a bit, but if they had, perhaps the message would have been partially lost.
    I do think the video does a great job of sending a message that drinking and operating a boat do not mix. On that part, they were very successful, and I’m sure that was their primary goal. I”m not sure they could have delivered as powerful a message by making it more PC, or not showing the alchohol.
    You made the comment that boating and drinking are not socially acceptable anymore. SINCE WHEN? I rarely drink, but I”m one of the very few. Boating and drinking go hand and hand. Boaters can barely walk around a boat show without drinking, yet you don’t think most do while out boating? That is totally unrealistic and way too polically correct of a message for most to believe.
    DRIVING THE BOAT AND DRINKING are not acceptable and shouldn’t be. Perhaps that’s what you meant to say.
    Some blood in the water at the end would have really driven the message home. But other than that, I don’t have much of a problem with it, although I might have done it a little different.
    I have no doubt that some well known politically correct industry “experts” will comment here and condemn Coast Guard, while most of us will just roll our eyes. But I have no doubt that most boaters will not have a problem with it, let alone be offended by it.

  2. Bill Bates

    While some may criticize the PSA, I support the ad and the message behind it. I am a retired business executive who had responsibility for a >$30 million/year advertising budget during my career. I also have an MBA from a top-five business school. I know a little bit about advertising.

    The spot is powerful because it shows the typical situation; kids out there drinking and partying down. Those are the folks who get in trouble, not the Power Squadron or USCGA types. In reality, no young folks in this kind of a nautical-social situation would be wearing a pfd, and most would be consuming alcohol. That’s the power of the spot; it’s a real situation.

    A basic tenet of advertising is that you have to get your audience to pay attention to and then relate to the message. I think this PSA does exactly that. The juxtaposition of fun, frolic, and pretty girls with the suddenness of the accident serves up the message in a powerful, in-your-face manner. That’s just how accidents happen in real life.

    Just one person’s opinion

  3. DJ IN NC

    One only needs to open their eyes during boating season across the U.S to see that what the Coast Guard is depicting is in fact REALITY IN FAR TOO MANY PLACES and not simply “tasteless and in an unjustified light”. In the many similar scenes I have witnessed I have never seen the Marine Retailers Association of America intervening to try and make a difference nor when my family and I were almost hit while anchored and swimming in a secluded cove by a group of boaters obviously partying and going way to fast for given conditions. Instead the coast guard along with local law enforcement are left to contain very large crowds and thank goodness we have them. Further, the reality is that many people annually die or are injured as a result of over indulgence and operating a vessel while impaired. I applaud the Coast Guard for both a timely and hard-hiiting type of message and moreover I sincerely hope it saves at least one life or precludes injury or damage to personal property.

  4. Eric Shepard

    Norm, are you talking about “Don’t wreck your summer”?
    If so I am guessing that you did not watch the whole video. The message is loud and clear:
    “Please don’t drink while boating. Boating accidents kill”
    It takes blunt messages to get it the message out. Drinking and boating simply do no mix.
    I am writing Adm. Cook with applause for for sending out the right message!

  5. Byrd Gossett

    C’mon Norm… who do you think this PSA is directed to?? Do you really think a bland portrayal of a coupla kids sitting on bench in those USELESS five dollar life jackets is going to draw the attention of a twenty-something? There’s nothing wrong with a cold beer on a hot day… multiples? Sure, that’s a problem. But that’s where the word responsibility belongs.. you are the guys that don’t seem to have a problem pedelling bow-riders..which probably have have accounted for their own share of folks chopped up in props..drunk or sober. I think the CG has hit the target head-on.



  7. Arch

    Interesting. The first 5 or 6 posters all posted at around the same time and probably didn’t see my first post when they replied since there is a time delay. YET, ALL OF US PRETTY MUCH SAID THE SAME THING.

  8. Ed

    Here in florida it is not against the law to drink on a boat. It is against the law to be drunk while operating a boat and the idiot that started the engine must have been drunk. I get several messages from the ad and I think the shock value is terrific. For years the marine industry has fought licensing requirements and until they step aside and so the law can change to allow all boaters to take a safe boating course within the license requirements this type of ad will be neccessary.

  9. Free thinker

    It just shows how disconnected our marine industry leaders are to the general public. This PSA is great. I URGE EVERYONE TO THANK THE USCG FOR SENDING OUT A MESSAGE THAT PEOPLE WILL REMEMBER. Listen Norm and Phil all the post are pro PSA. What have you learned from this?

  10. Kyle

    The Coast Guard isn’t just about life jackets, it is about being safe no matter if you are the captain or the passenger in any type of vessel. As the video shows, being careless can be dangerous. This is what I got out of it. I will have to agree with another poster, the boating industry has lost touch with the reality of boaters. This is not to say that they(boaters) have all turned into to drunks), it’s to say that if we as an industry are to move forward, then we have to keep all of our customers well informed of realistic boating, and to help them make realistic choices when they walk into our dealerships.

  11. Pequot Boater

    Agree with the majority posters here. It depicts true, current reality on the water today. Many, but not all, act in an uneducated, irresponsible manner on the water. We all want to be out there to enjoy it and have fun, but our actions impact others. Safety always needs to be first and foremost, and safety on the water can exist with partying and fun. I remian a STRONG proponent of boating education and licensing. Any idiot can buy a boat, turn the key and go boating without any knowledge of the rules of the road, safety requirements, etc. It’s wrong, and needs to be rectified.

  12. C. Moore

    In reviewing the video I find it strange that any of the boats are running especially the one in the middle of the raft up? Who would do this & please don’t say a drunk guy. I could see the guy getting pulled under if the throttle was pushed into reverse but not forward? I also doubt the guy would have been pulled down like the shark attach in jaws in either case. I would like to see the stats on how often this particular senario takes place. Most Drinking while boating incidents are collisions with inmobil objects.
    At last weekends power boat races off Clearwater beach we saw many (over 250) boaters rafted and anchored up with folks in the water behind the boat but there wasn’t one report of an incident like the video depicted. The Coasties, marine patrol, border patrol, etc. were every where and never once did they approach these boaters to issue a warning or alert them to the ever present danger depicted in this PSA.
    I believe an intocicted boater driving by these beutiful models that are all over these boats would be distracted enough to plow into a dock.
    I think a more real life, with realistic people, PSA would be a better way to go. I believe most other boaters would see these as well & dismiss the PSA as unrealist…

  13. Elihu Smails

    Whoa buddy, did you scratch your anchor or something? This psa is right on target. The same old thing isn’t working anymore, and the USCG should be applauded for producing a message that gets the viewers attention.

  14. DJ IN NC

    The classy thing for Schultz and Keeter to do would be to retract their campaign urging everyone to contact the Coast Guard in protest of the PSA and join them in a campaign to further reduce over-indulgence while boating. Lets see if they have the fortitude to do so.

  15. Larry

    It looks like Norm and Phil are taking a beating on this one, but I’ll take their side in this debate. Boating safety is an important issue but there’s no reason to shoot our industry in the foot to make a point, especially when other options and better approaches are available. NMMA and the recreational boating industry spent millions on the Discovery Boating campaign — and is gearing up now to spend more in anticipation of an economic recovery that we all need. Somehow this PSA and what we’re trying to accomplish with Discovery Boating are at total opposite ends of the spectrum. I don’t expect that the U.S. Coast Guard should be a shill or cheerleader to help us sell boats, that’s not their job. But I also don’t expect them to portray our sport in such a way that it grossly undermines a positive perception to the general public. Is there any other recreational industry that runs such negative PSA material? Not to my knowledge. I’ve never seen an NRA spot with little 7-year old Johnnie standing over his now departed play-buddy with a smoking revolver in his hand saying, “oops, I didn’t know daddy’s gun was loaded.” Haven’t seen a swimming pool safety PSA with a 2-year toddler floating face-down in the water with a tag line, “I just went in the house to answer the phone.” There’s got to b a better way to get the message out than this.

  16. Tim

    Want proof that the PSA is right on target? Go to Youtube and search for “party cove” or “devils cove”. The scary part is all those folks had to drive their boats back home or to a ramp after all that! MAYBE the scenario is a bit overdone, but it has happened. Two recent incidents, one in New York and another on the Chesapeake Bay involved intoxicated operators hitting a marked hazard at high speed at night. The industry and folks that claim to speak for it need to send teh message that boating is fun, but has risks, especially when alcohol is involved.

  17. C. Moore

    Sorry Tim & others there are no statistics to back up this particular depicted senerio.
    Boating under the influence is bad & dangerious but that is not what these folks are doing.
    Tim you hit it on the head. They should have shown a boat in motion hitting a marker.
    Not a poor recreation of Jaws.
    Maybe this ad should have ended with the so called victim popping up and saying “Hey Sean thank goodness you put those new prop gards on Dude!!!”
    If there had been prop gards on that drive this wouldn’t have been a big deal.
    “Please pass me a beer and a set of them thar prop gard cages ………. you know they are Manatee friendly”
    I believe that is what Norm is talking about the unrealisticness of it.

  18. Arch

    LARRY, I I THINK YOU GOT IT WRONG ON THIS ONE. You say that you don’t expect coast guard to tow the line for the boating industry, but your examples contradict that.
    The examples you gave would hold water IF it was the NMMA putting out this commercial. Since the Coast Guard is not towing the line for the boat business, they need to focus on safety. And PSA’s like this are done in other industries, including several that you mentioned. The NRA wouldn’t show a spot showing a kid getting killed, but other organizations that promote gun safety would. Ditto for pool deaths. I have seen psa’s showing kids floating in the pool. I’ve seen some pretty eye opening ones about guns too.
    I also don’t agree that the psa grossly undermines public perception of boating. DID YOU SEE THE GIRLS IN THAT PSA? There is no way a future boater will be turned off by boating after seeing this commercial. If anything, he will see the boats, the sun, the water, the girls, and get the message not to drink and drive. It won’t turn people off from boating anymore than a PSA about driving a car under the influence.

    C. MOORE- if you go back and read Norm’s comments, you will see his issue with it has NOTHING to do with it being unrealistic.

  19. JH

    Norm…Norm… Norm…
    You have got it completely wrong on this one. I feel you may have lost a bit of credibility with your half-baked opinion. Do all messages have to be about life-jackets? There are many things we would all like to see from our fellow boaters. One is not loosing situational awareness and another is not drinking too much… There are many others as well.
    This ad hits spot on on what I’ve seen way too many times…and also participated in myself in my youth. I know a guy who actually lost an arm in eerily similar situation. Whether in the Sacramento Delta or Florida Key, this is a realistic take on risky boating activity.

  20. Gary at PGIC

    USCG pulled the propeller safety Public Service Announcement (PSA) video down earlier this week. We provide full coverage of the debate over the PSA at:

    We also address some of the issues and factors involved in choosing between spending money on trying to increase life jacket wear rates or on a propeller safety PSA. USCG has spent millions on trying to increase wear rates and recent numbers are still only about 5 percent for adults in open motorboats. Its time to spend a small percentage of those funds some place they may actually drive change.

  21. Gary at PGIC

    Response to C. Moore 5 October comment about throttle being pushed forward –
    People can still be pulled in from the rear, especially behind larger craft in shallow water when getting underway. The water recirculates (prop pushes water out the back, it curls around and goes back through again).

    It can also happen when underway. Earlier this year a battery of tests were conducted in Australia to see how a young woman fell off the back of a 10 meter cruiser and was killed by the props. The following quote is from the Gold Coast. July 29, 2010.”Bloodied Body Pulled Into Party Cruiser”

    “Senior Constable XXXX told the jury a police re-enactment of the incident with a 55kg dummy concluded it was likely Ms YYYY would have quickly been pulled beneath the boat by the wash undercurrent and into one of the boat’s twin propellers.

    He told the jury he was surprised by the findings as he originally believed anyone falling off the back of the boat would be safely carried away.

    He said the outcome had been confirmed after nine repetitions of the re-enactment were carried out at varying boat speeds.”

    end quote

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