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Advert in 2012 – Nothing can replace the real one. Use original Harley-Davidson parts.

Halloween’s coming, and with it “mischief night”—which means it’s the season for pranks.  And being on a Friday night this year means egged houses and toilet-papered trees are the order of the day for the mischievous.

Did you know that Harley-Davidson has been pulling clever pranks for years?  All with the intent of snagging the attention of often-distracted online observers/customers.

This phenomenon, has a name now—“prankvertising”—which has really ramped up in recent years, perhaps because of Halloween or maybe because agencies like doing the unorthodox and testing consumer limits.

The photo with this blog post is an in your face example that mashes all the politically incorrect buttons.  Some would debate it provides confirmation of how completely out of touch Harley-Davidson is or was in deploying this image as a visual ‘joke.’

Is the motorcycle culture’ a petri dish of people who know so little about human social interaction and how professional life works that advertising agencies can concoct up this stuff straight-faced, thinking there are no consequences?

I’m sure some of you will view this as demeaning, insulting and extremely sexist. Harley-Davidson on the other hand and their agency (Big), didn’t think they were objectifying or exploiting women in this ad or even blink by portraying women and comparing them to a motorcycle part, and picturing them as sex toys.

Full Disclosure:  My initial reaction when I first saw the ad and tag line, “Nothing can replace the real one. Use original Harley-Davidson parts,” was to laugh out loud and marvel at the clever humor, but then political correctness kicked in and I made a note that advertising agencies should really realize their responsibility towards society and their target audience.  Given Harley-Davidson’s significant outreach to the woman demographic for motorcycle sales it’s highly unlikely you’ll see something like this again.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson and Big, İstanbul, Turkey

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Retail stores open Thanksgiving Day

Retail stores open Thanksgiving Day

It seems that the shopping season is taking over the holiday season.  Black Friday battles to save a couple dollars are giving us all a black eye!

The MINDLESS ads…  Door buster ads, “lightning” deals, Amazon Black Friday week, newspaper ads, TV ads, email ads, Facebook ads, Pinterest ads, ads embedded in blog posts and even Apple products are being advertised on discount, which is something we’ve rarely seen before.  In fact, a record number of retail stores (i.e. Best Buy, Walmart, etc.) are open on Thanksgiving Day (which means people have to work vs. share time with family)  so that consumers can buy those so-called “bargains.” 

Clearly Retailers have crossed the line, but we know the public will head to the shops.  We complain about consumerism, but there are plenty of horror stories of stampedes as shops open their doors and people fling themselves into shop ‘til you drop mode.

So, I wanted to put Thanksgiving in perspective. 

obamacare_stickerI have many things to be thankful for, most of all my family and friends.  I’m thankful for motorcycling and the ability/health to have enjoyed another year of riding my Harley across this great country.  I’m grateful for a wife who shares my passion and rides along on many adventures.  I’m thankful and appreciate my extended rider “family” who have been there with support and hugs from breakdowns to accidents.

I’m thankful for the men and women of our armed forces who are serving overseas protecting our interests.  They don’t get to spend Thanksgiving with their loved ones and I appreciate their sacrifice.  It does not go unnoticed!

We live in a country that to a great extent, still provides the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  A place where we can freely choose to do what we want and if we’re fortunate, be able to make a living doing it.

I’m thankful that I can complain about our elected representatives, and have the ability to choose them which is a rarity in this world!  Speaking of,  I’m thankful for Barack Obama banishing boredom for millions of lives.  The ObamaCare misadventure and “apology” has caused a lot of ordinary people to question both his character and his competence.  But, I’ve digressed.

Last but not least, I’m thankful for all of you!  The readers, the subscribers and the commenters.  You allow me to do what I do on this blog.  That is the promise of America, and on this Thanksgiving holiday, it still holds true.

 I hope you have a chance to enjoy some turkey, yams, stuffing and pumpkin pie with your family and friends!

Photo courtesy of Internet Advertising.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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hd-ride-on_aotwWhat confidence can give, lack of confidence can just as suddenly take away when it comes to financial conditions.

And that couldn’t be more true for Harley-Davidson’s international sales.  The international sales for the motor company primarily come from Europe, but its contribution to the total sales has been consistently declining.  Europe accounted for about 15% of unit sales last quarter, and the macro-economic conditions are so weak in Europe that there is very little Harley-Davidson can do to boost sales.

As a result, the “red phone” rang in the marketing department and Harley-Davidson worked with an advertising agency, Big Communications in London, to whip up a call-to-arms and encourage bikers to RIDE ON through the economic storm. Unless you lived under the proverbial rock, you may recall that back in 2008 at the height of the deep recession in the U.S., Harley-Davidson rolled out the “We don’t do fear”… “Screw it, let’s ride” campaign.

airplane-HD-AdThere was a time not so long ago in the U.S. that most economic indicators showed it was being hollowed out and the only economic activity that remained was food, power and undertakers.  The press wrote daily about how an economic doomsday was coming.  Those with expertise in economics told us that, without a doubt, the world is heading for financial Armageddon, or an economic ice age.  Basically the world’s gone to pot… and they weren’t talking about Washington state!

It now appears that the road ahead for motorcycle riders on the European continent (with apologies to science fiction writers everywhere) have just passed the “point of no return.”  Metaphorically, they don’t have enough fuel to return to the point of origin, and they just discovered they don’t have enough fuel to reach a planned destination.  The economy and society could very well end up in ashes.

In plain English and in the Harley-Davidson parlance of our time: You’re screwed so, why not whistle while you RIDE ON through the storm and enjoy the view until the fuel runs out!

Yawn…  Harley-Davidson has inspired so much more in interesting ads like the empty road version above.  It’s not clear to me why the marketing group thinks they need to go back to an old call-to-arms ad style like “Ride On.”

Photo courtesy of Big Communications and H-D.

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"No Cages" Advertising

It’s official.

The first work from Harley-Davidson’s new ‘hookup’ with Boulder, CO.-based crowdsourcing agency Victor & Spoils has debuted on YouTube.  The consumer-created spot was born of a new agency model that H-D adopted after parting with longtime agency Carmichael Lynch last year.

Watch the YouTube video HERE.

Congrats and a shout out to Whit Hiler, the Kentuckian who’d submitted the “No Cages” original idea that is also part of Harley’s HD1 factory customization program in which buyers can design their own rides.

It’s an old and improved formula, but it doesn’t make me want to part with my cash!  Maybe you will?  It doesn’t have that viral feel where people are watching the video and then instantly going to Twitter and Facebook, to start a dialogue.

We live in an “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” culture, where speed to stardom and availability of technology makes about anyone a creative director. And this video has a get it done fast, good enough is good enough look.   In the internet world, where everything happens now, this is anathema.  Everything’s here today, gone tomorrow.  Like a lot of advertising these days, the big idea is lost and the execution is vanilla.  I would have thought that V&S’s multiple years of experience would have vetted out the creative gold-nuggets from the train-wreck incarnate.

This creative spot wreaks of ratings/hits, not quality and has a race to the bottom mentality.  Mr. Richer, isn’t this how Pontiac died?!  Is it time for a mea culpa?  When you contrast how the big middle finger of rebellion helped build this brand and now advertising which has been replaced with me-too imitation…  It’s got to be about the long haul.  Not overnight success, but enduring success.  Forget about genres.  Just be good.

I’m still a fan of H-D, but not for this ad.

UPDATE: February 16, 2011 – Mark-Hans Richer (H-D CMO) told in an interview to Ad Age: “We’re really happy with the way it  [“Cages”] came out…”

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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Cowboys Stadium

Doing a bit of Monday morning quarter-backing here…  one of the biggest buzz-making ads during yesterday’s Super Bowl was not Harley-Davidson.

If you recall, Harley-Davidson invented the down-on-our-luck tribute to a broken economy which morphs into a defiant, we’re-back rallying cry so screw the man and just ride anthem.

Now it seems that Chrysler has out Harley’d Harley!  With none other than another broken thing out of Detroit, Eminem, who happens to be staging a massive comeback and worked magic to charge us all up with the ‘We are all Detroit’ mantra.  The longest commercial in Super Bowl history was the 2 minute video costing ~$9M for the spot.  It was captivating to say the least and I for one came away with a higher appreciation for the Chrysler brand.

At first blush, it’s a bit hard to imagine just how any musician could have much impact on the product offerings of Harley-Davidson, whose primary work involves fabricating and stamping out thousands of sheet-metal parts into motorcycles.  Yet, if H-D could somehow find a really authentic — ‘brand ambassador’ — to help create more of an emotional connection between motorcyclists and H-D’s products, they might could come up with a way to reposition the brand and appeal to a younger generation.

It wouldn’t be the first for a large corporation to hire a brand ambassador.  Puffy, has cologne and Kanye has shoes.  Chrysler now has ‘Slim Shady’.  Even the technology ‘old skool’ microprocessor company Intel has hired Will.i.am (who was The Black Eyed Peas front-man at the Super Bowl half-time show) and is now wearing an Intel badge with signature shades and blinged-out shoes while evangelizing semi-conductor goodness.

All that’s left to debate is whether the advertisers were having an off year or the general crappiness of the half-time show was indicative of a greater decline in culture. Witnesses to the Black Eyed Peas.  I’d like to say they were terrible, unwatchable, the end of the world as we know it.  But they were not.

They were a representation of America…  And we have to give the NFL credit, for imparting the kiss of death upon musical acts.  If you perform at the Super Bowl, you’re now over.  I will say this — The Black Eyed Peas were better than the Who and guitarist Pete Townshend with his low-hanging gut.  The Who were just sad.  Like Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium.  Once upon a time they were great, now it’s just creepy.

But, to end on a more positive note, the recession is officially over … or at least, that’s the message from Super Bowl advertisers this year.  It seems we’ve moved out of the depression of the recession and the wounded manhood in the face of reduced income and unemployment back into post-adolescent guy humor themes.

Time to take note Harley.

Photo courtesy of Dallas Photo Works

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Communication technology and digital media have transformed almost every sector of society, altering the way we express ideas, participate in public debates, connect with others, entertain ourselves and define our identities.  The implications of the digital age are profound

And for the past 31-years, Minneapolis-based Carmichael Lynch has helped build the Harley-Davidson brand through innovative ideas in advertising, digital and public relations.  You may not know the agency, but you’ll remember their “Screw It, Let’s Ride” campaign which inspired people to get out and ride independent of what the economy is doing or what the pundits tell us.  In addition they developed the more recent award winning Harlista campaign which resulted in an 8.2% increase in share of motorcycles among Hispanic targets and a 615% increase in web traffic to the Hispanic section of the H-D web site.

But the relationship is no more.  The two companies have what the Tiger Woods divorce attorney’s might label as “irretrievably broken” as the two companies parted ways this week.

Clearly Carmichael Lynch wasn’t satisfied with a smaller lead advertising role and “resigned” as H-D’s new strategy has been moving away from a singular consumer agency and instead is working with several creative agencies like McCann, VSA Partners, Davie Brown and others.

In an era when relationships are measured in “internet time” the fact that this agency has been able to successfully maintain a client relationship for so many years and produce quality, award winning creative against many odds stands for something in my book!

Photo courtesy of H-D and Carmichael Lynch.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Walter Mitty was a fictional character in James Thurber’s short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” published back in 1939.  Mitty was a meek, mild man with a vivid fantasy life where he imagines himself as a wartime pilot, an emergency-room surgeon and devil may care dreamer.

What about daydreaming of wind-in-the-face, and being part of the counterculture rebels-with-tats ethos?

As luck would have it, Harley-Davidson is launching a comprehensive effort aimed at getting the “Walter Mitty” dreamers of the world to ride H-D motorcycles.   It’s call the “Start Something” campaign, with the message that you have to stop dreaming and actually do it.

The advertisements feature model superstar and motorcycle rider Marisa Miller in the Maxim Hot 100 issue along with a brand presence at the Maxim party in Los Angeles, advertisement on the Maxim Web site, the Maxim television program and of course can you spell social media in 140 characters?

H-D also has a new promotional book, “Guide to Ride” meant to dispel any of “Mitty’s” conflicting thoughts about whether to ride or not. Including tips on handling protests by the significant other.  The book is available at dealerships or the company’s website.

A very important associated promotion has H-D offering up Rider’s Edge New Rider Training Courses for free.

To all you ineffectual dreamers — isn’t time to take a road trip?

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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