Few motorists buckled up in the 1960s and 1970s. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) decided to use advertising to promote seat belt use. From 1985 to 1998, NHTSA and the Ad Council sponsored television and radio commercials with actors who portrayed Vince and Larry, human-like crash test dummies.
Created by ad agency Leo Burnett and professionals in filmmaking, costumes, and special effects, the fast-paced television commercials used humor and negative example to demonstrate the consequences of not wearing seat belts. Actors portrayed the kinetic misadventures of Vince, an experienced crash dummy, and Larry, a relative newcomer. The persistent, thought-provoking theme was that only dummies neglect to wear seat belts. The harsh consequences of this choice were played out in slapstick and mechanical ballet that could be funny and shocking at the same time.