Joel Machak’s Clio Award for Vince and Larry Crash Dummy Commercials, 1986

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In the 1950s, automobile crash tests at universities convinced many safety advocates that “packaging” drivers and passengers with seat belts and other protective hardware was an urgently needed solution to highway fatalities. In 1966, Congress passed a law requiring seat belts, padded dashboards, stronger door latches, and other safety features on all new cars. But in the 1970s, few motorists wore seat belts because of apathy, distrust, or ignorance of the safety benefits. The U. S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) used mass media to urge motorists to wear their seat belts. In 1984, NHTSA partnered with the Ad Council to create television and radio public service announcements that would persuade motorists to buckle up. The Ad Council hired Leo Burnett, a talent company, which recommended the use of humor. Leo Burnett staff writer Jim Ferguson and art director / creative director Joel Machak created Vince and Larry, a pair of crash test dummy characters with personalities and attitudes. Vince, the older, seasoned dummy, was tired, discouraged, and about to give up his mission to inspire motorists to wear seat belts. Larry, the young, energetic member of team, encouraged Vince to carry on his efforts, evoking sympathy from viewers. Ferguson began scripting commercials, and Leo Burnett hired director-producer William Dear to film the commercials. The fast-paced PSAs used humor and negative example to show the consequences of sudden deceleration without seat belts. The Leo Burnett team won the prestigious Clio Award; this statuette was presented to Joel Machak at the annual awards ceremony in Lincoln Center in New York. The Clio Award recognizes innovation and excellence in advertising, design, and communication. Founded in 1959 and named for the Greek goddess Clio, the mythological muse known as "the proclaimer, glorifier and celebrator of history, great deeds and accomplishments,” the award encompasses outstanding works in television, radio, print advertising, and package design.
Currently not on view
date made
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 15 in x 7 in; 38.1 cm x 17.78 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Joel Machak
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Road Transportation
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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