DOT SKELETON by The Barbarian Group for New York City Department Of Transportation


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Industry Traffic safety
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Market United States
Agency The Barbarian Group
Released May 2011

Credits & Description

Category: Public Sector
Agency: The Barbarian Group
Media placement: Consumer PR - Adweek - May 11, 2011
Media placement: Consumer PR - NY Daily News - May 12, 2011
Media placement: Consumer PR - New York Times - May 12, 2011
Media placement: Consumer PR - - May 12, 2011
Media placement: Consumer PR - MSNBC - May 13, 2011
Media placement: Consumer PR - Gizmodo - May 13, 2011
Media placement: Consumer PR - NY Mag - May 13, 2011
Media placement: Consumer PR - NY Post - May 13, 2011
Media placement: Consumer PR - TIME - May 16, 2011
Media placement: Consumer PR - Fast Co. Design - May 19, 2011

Summary of the Campaign
The speed limit in New York City is 30mph, and for good reason. A pedestrian hit at 30mph has an 80% chance of survival, while someone hit at 40mph has a 70% chance of dying. The City asked for our help getting this message out. Our strategy was to create an execution that could communicate directly to drivers on the road, and that would also drive PR and attract coverage from New York City print, online and broadcast media outlets. Our solution: the 'skeleton sign', a radar-enabled road sign that flashed an ominous graphic and a message to 'Slow Down' to drivers who sped past at more than 30mph.

The sign was announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a major press conference, eliciting coverage from nearly every major New York City press outlet, including The New York Times, The Daily News, NY One television and multiple community and transportation blogs. It also received national coverage on Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, CNN online, Time Magazine’s Newsfeed, as well as numerous mentions on heavily trafficked sites such as Fast Company Design and Laughing Squid.

Additionally, all coverage featured images of the sign, a unique, compelling and simple visual that helped the press contextualize the city’s safety campaign to the public. As Mayor Bloomberg said himself, when asked what he thought about the skeleton sign in his press conference, “If it saves 1 life, it’s one of the more brilliant ideas I’ve ever heard”.

The Situation
Most drivers in New York City do not know that the city’s speed limit is 30mph for a good reason — if they even know that the city has a speed limit. New York wanted to help fix that by raising awareness of the 30mph limit. They had no budget for purchasing media, so doing something with PR value was critical.

The Goal
Our goal was to create a 'social object', something that could directly communicate to drivers on the road, but also give local and national press something interesting to talk about.

The Strategy
The strategy was simple. Explain to drivers that the speed at which they drive really is a matter of life and death.


The sign was announced at a major press conference by the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. The sign itself appeared in multiple locations around the City throughout the summer of 2011.

Documented Results
Our approach resulted in 22 online media publications with a total of 59,616,222 unique visitors, 4 major broadcast news stations with a total of 9.5m viewers, collectively resulting in 69m impressions.