‘Speeding. No one thinks big of you’; Problematic Problem Solving?

The 2006 media campaign: ‘Speeding. No one thinks big of you’ was one of the most memorable and effective TV campaigns of that era which drastically curbed road deaths in young people, it broke headlines overseas and saved countless lives. However, looking back on this campaign from the future lense we now have, with more knowledge about men’s mental health and unhealthy ideals of masculinity, can we find a better way to shift attitudes? 

In 2006 the RTA was facing a rapidly increasing problem; no matter how many shock horror car crash ads were aired, young males (17-24) in particular were dying more and more on the road (Roads and Traffic Authority 2009). Authoritarian voices and scare tactics weren’t working on this demographic in particular; at this age the risk centre in brain is not fully developed yet (Bessant, 2008).  Through research the RTA grew to understand the culture of speeding in young males and found that they were more likely to take risks when 2 or more passengers were in the car (Roads and Traffic Authority 2009). Drivers were showing off.

The ad campaign features women on the street and peers in the car wiggling their pinky fingers at the irresponsible drivers. They are basically saying that a driver who speeds must have a small penis, and the reason they show off in the car is to­­ compensate for that. The ad was a huge success and it uses two highly effective advertising methods:

1. Creating a symbol or action that can be copied and re created general public.

  • Once the idea is spread into the public, the message is regenerated and it becomes free advertising.

2. Shame tactics

  • Studies show that guilt, fear and shame are the most efficient emotions to tap into when advertising to young people. (Spinks-Earl, 2010) However is this ethical?

Body image issues in men have been linked to low self esteem, anxiety and depression (Olivardia, Pope, Borowiecki & Cohane, 2004). Western cultures even call a man’s penis “his manhood” meaning young men are susceptible to equating penis size with their self worth (Wylie & Eardley, 2007).

75% of yearly suicides in Australia are male (Molloy & Cook, 2019) and we are becoming increasingly aware of mental health issues revolving around men and masculinity.

This advertising campaign is particularly relevant to the tobacco issue project we will be working on in Jogjakarta as smoking advertising is directed at young men and is sold as a masculine activity . Breaking down this notion would be a highly effective angle to take in our projects, however we as designers have a responsibility to work in nuanced and holistic ways, which don’t shift one problem on to another.


Bessant, J. 2008. Hard wired for risk: Neurological science,‘the adolescent brain’and developmental theory. Journal of Youth Studies, 11(3), pp.347-360.

Molloy, S & Cook, M, 2019, Australian men are in crisis, with suicide rates rising. Meet some of the men who’ll die this week, viewed 21 Nov 2019 <https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/mind/australian-men-are-in-crisis-with-suicide-rates-rising-meet-some-of-the-men-wholl-die-this-week/news-story/4488a31ab0392ce1f7ee1a8717e73d38&gt;

Pope, H. G. Jr., Philips, K. A. & Olivardia, R. (2004). The Adonis complex: The secret crisis of male body obsession. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Roads and Traffic Authority 2009, Speeding. No one thinks big of you. 2009 Australian Effie Awards, viewed 22 Nov 2019 <chrome-extension://oemmndcbldboiebfnladdacbdfmadadm/https://www.effies.com.au/attachments/cd29d4db-44e2-4c50-b86d-fca3acbd7c2b.pdf>

Spinks-Earl, D. 2010, Effective Road Safety Campaign Using the Shame Appeal, MVMM, viewed 22 Nov 2019. <https://mvmm.com.au/no-one-thinks-big-of-you-the-pinkie-campaign/&gt;

Wylie, K. R. & Eardley, I. (2007). Penile size and the “small penis syndrome.” BJU International, viewed 22 Nov 2019 ,99, 1449–1455.

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