Case studies
DfT ‘Think! Biker’

Semiotic analysis of the cultural coding of motorcycle riders, identifying and challenging motorists’ unconscious preconceptions of motorcyclists as masked, anonymous and dangerous.

What was the challenge? After years of running motorcycle awareness campaigns with negligible impact, the Department for Transport wanted to identify and transform where its campaigns were missing the mark.

What did we do? We examined road safety awareness campaigns in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia, and analysed cultural representations of motorcyclists to identify dominant negative codes and recommend how to counteract these.

Faceless vs. accessible bikers

– Dominant: Motorcyclists coded as faceless menace by dominant cultural perceptions of socially marginal male riders clad in machine-like helmets and black studded leather

– Emergent: Motorcyclists coded as vulnerable and human by communicating who they are, where they are going and what they are doing – by revealing the people under the helmets

Where did it lead? The DfT created a new set of comms for its Think! campaign which increased motorists’ awareness of motorcyclists on UK roads.