The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It
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This advertisement for road safety begins with a cricket match. As Keith Miller bats, the male narrator speaks about concentration as one of his keys to success, with his 'eyes front all the time, or you’re out’. This tip is then applied to road safety as the advertisement illustrates 'doing the right thing’ as a driver or pedestrian – noticing speed signs, slowing down at school zones, ignoring distractions, watching where you’re walking and carefully crossing the road. The narrator employs cricket analogies to reinforce the message. The ad ends with a direct address to camera by Miller who concludes that 'the eyes have it’. Summary by Poppy De Souza.

The sequence at the end of this clip where a pedestrian gets 'clean bowled’ by a car while racing for a tram uses tight editing, sound effects and images to great effect. We don’t see what happens to the man, but through a quick montage of the parcel he’s carrying, a close-up on his face, a shot of the car and the screech of brakes, the sequence is incredibly powerful.

This technique of not showing the details could still be seen in public awareness advertisements up until the 1980s and 1990s (including ads for speeding and drink driving). However, similar campaigns today tend to be more graphic to convey the same message – for example, many of the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority advertisements in the 2000s.

The Eyes Have it synopsis

Produced by Movietone for the Australian Road Safety Council, this black-and-white cinema advertisement features cricketer Keith Miller. It illustrates the importance of observation and concentration in both the game of cricket and for road safety. The advertisement uses cricket analogies to carry its safety message to drivers and pedestrians on the road. It ends with a direct address to camera by Miller who concludes, if you want to be 'not out in the game of life’, play it safe and remember 'the eyes have it’.

The Eyes Have it curator's notes

Between the late 1940s and late 1950s, car ownership in Australia had increased from one in eight people to about one in four, and with it came increased traffic in built-up city centres. In this context it is easy to see why raising public awareness of driver and pedestrian concentration on the roads would have been a core component of road safety campaigns at this time.

The choice of Keith Miller as the advertisement’s star is inspired. By the late 1950s, Miller had become one of the country’s most loved and well-known cricketers of the postwar period. An accomplished all-rounder with a strong build and a handsome appearance, Miller was popular both within and beyond the cricket arena (cricket enthusiast Michael Parkinson once said 'the women loved him and the men wanted to be him’).

The structure of the advertisement is built around Miller’s wide appeal and draws analogies between cricket and driving. Some of these may seem a little clunky and corny to us today ('if you want to top score as a pedestrian’ and 'don’t let distractions get you caught out’, are two standouts) but they effectively convey the core message about keeping your eyes on the road and watching out for dangers amongst the traffic.

Notes by Poppy De Souza.

Productions companies:
Commonwealth Film Unit, Movietone Productions and The Australian Road Safety Council
Keith Miller