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LCBO iPhone app takes awkwardness out of taking the keys

How do you tell friends they’ve had too much to drink and shouldn’t drive home from your holiday party?

How do you tell friends they’ve had too much to drink and shouldn’t drive home from your holiday party?


There’s an app for that.


Working with Toronto digital agency dial9, the LCBO has developed a free iPhone application in iTunes that sends pre-recorded voice messages in your name to the mobile phones, BlackBerrys and iPhones of up to 20 friends at once.


“It’s not always easy to ask a friend for their keys,” says liquor store spokesman Chris Layton.
The “Speak Up!” app has nine messages to choose in a male or female voice.


They range from before-the-party suggestions to plan for a safe trip home to at-the-party reminders to minimize the chances revelers will land in trouble or in a booze-fuelled crash.


“Look forward to seeing you at the party! If you’re going to drink, don’t forget to take transit or arrange a designated driver, or we can call you a cab,” says one.


Another, for later: “As the night winds down, I just wanted to remind everyone that if you’ve been drinking and need a cab, come see me and I’ll call one for you.”


Customer research suggested the toughest thing for many hosts is approaching guests on the issue of drinking and driving, hence the arm’s length approach to an issue that is often the elephant in room.


“Everybody’s been there. We wanted to remove the embarrassment,” said Dez Lo, chief operating officer of dial9, an arm of advertising agency Due North, which has done the LCBO’s “deflate the elephant” ad campaign to fight impaired driving.


“We’re pretty sure no one else is doing this kind of campaign the way we are.”


Lo’s team developed the app – which includes 50 alcohol-free mocktail recipes to help hosts plan a party—in just two months this fall to meet the holiday season deadline.


He’s seen the app in action.


“A friend of mind downloaded and sent a call to everyone at her party that night. Literally, 20 peoples’ phones rang at the same time. It really got people talking.”


Mocktails are in the app so that hosts can easily look up recipes while shopping, so that guests going easy on the booze aren’t stuck with pop or water and feeling left out.


“You can stand there with a nice drink,” said Lo, noting the recipes include mock martinis and other alcohol-free drinks with a bit of glamour.


The “Speak Up” campaign also includes a Facebook presence, where users can share tips and post their own mocktail recipes.


“It gives us good insights into what people are thinking on these issues,” said Stephanie Petroff, a social media specialist at the LCBO.


Mothers Against Drunk Driving is watching closely to see how many iPhone users choose the “Speak Up!” app, which has been downloaded by about 200 people so far.


“We’re looking at apps ourselves in terms of calculating drinks,” said MADD chief executive Andrew Murie. “The LCBO is being pretty innovative and we’re looking to follow them.”


Under tougher drinking and driving laws that took effect last year, Ontario motorists face new penalties if caught behind the wheel with lower concentrations of alcohol in the blood.


Drivers will have their licences suspended for three days the first time they’re caught with a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.05 and 0.08, the “warning” range where drivers are seven times more likely to be in a fatal crash.


The second time, the suspension rises to seven days and goes up to 30 days for a third offence. Previously, suspensions were for 12 hours.

 
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