Harley channels military iconography for latest ad campaign

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We’re seriously impressed with this latest ad campaign from Harley. While not quite banishing memories of the xenophobic, culture war-inspired “Screw It,” “Military Appreciation” does a 180, focussing on presenting a positive message about America and its ideals. The whole Harley thing basically began during and after WWII, with soldiers buying surplus bikes and air crews searching for the freedom they no longer got from flying. You can still clearly see that influence in the graphics used on club patches and similar tchotchkes. Something about that period’s look just evokes “motorcycle” in an immediate and powerful way.

Our only criticism would be the somewhat inappropriate, Christian
Audigier-influenced graphics in the upper left corner of most of these
ads. Likely explained by the guy with the awful hair and bad clothes in
this video, Harley would have been much better served if they’d stuck
to a literal adaptation of the influence and steered completely clear
of Los Angeles.

While the overt objectification of women usually doesn’t work in ads
(viewers remember the boobs, not the bike), the scantily clad Marissa
Miller actually fits perfectly here, representing the nose cone art and
pinup girls that were so influential to motorcycle culture post war.

We’re surprised to see any motorcycle company demonstrating this level
of cultural awareness, style and savviness, but positively amazed that
the company in question happens to be Harley. Now, if they could just
offer the kind of simple, high substance motorcycles that they did
during the war (something like the Ural ST), Harley could suddenly find
itself able to sell bikes to young people.


  • carlos

    +1 for marissa miller. she is h-aw-t. I know it sounds juvenille, but she is smoking. Now if only you actually saw someone like marrisa hanging around a harley in the real world. I haven’t. Not once. Unless she was a paid model doing some local promo for a radio station or something.

    Harley is the only bike being sold in the shops in Iraq and overseas. All I know is if Marrisa was around, I would have bought a few Harley’s while I was stuck in Iraq.

  • bzr

    I don’t know, it doesn’t strike me as being particularly retro or clever, just crass. The gorgeousness that is Marissa Miller notwithstanding, it’s less well-designed than the “Screw It, Let’s Ride” ads.

  • robotribe

    An Alberto Vargas-like girl will class up any joint. This is why GQ, Playboy, Esquire and hell, ALTOIDS, play this card every few issues or seasons.

    And please, not all of Los Angeles is represented by guys who wear t-shirts with printed tattoos and “crackling flourishes mixed with a skull or eagle” motifs. It’s not our fault the rest of the country digests some of our native Angeleno’s crap in bucket-sized portions.

  • robotribe

    Oh, and either way, any bike company that needs an entire “hot chick (no argument about Ms. Miller’s innate hotness) campaign” to make their bikes more appealing has officially jumped the shark.

    I have the reverse reaction than intended when I look at these ads:”Motorcycle? There’s a motorcycle in this picture? Need to Google images of Marissa Miller, PRONTO!”.

  • http://smallsuncustom.blogspot.com/ Big Mick

    Harley using patriotism & tits to sell bikes ?
    You could knock me over with a feather; I never would have seen that coming.

    when you have nothing new to sell….
    when you can’t think of a contemporary marketing strategy……
    when all else fails…….

  • mjk

    thought the latest CB1100 Honda vid was dire, but this takes the wholesale biskuit… I am so going to buy one of these babies and fix a communist era MZ 250 tank to it… when testing the latest triumph speed triple a few years ago, I was left for dead over Vauxhall Bridge by a skinny 60yr old riding a white Soft-tail (with some v. loud pipes). shiny white harleys are the futur…

  • Core

    People keep talking about the Harleys, all I could see was this beautiful woman, pulling off some truly weird modeling poses..

    Being serious, I liked the style, classic pin up. Something endureingly sexy about it.

  • arantan

    Just too classic and retro for me, it is not fitting. Who are the target of these ads anyway?

    It is really not cool, its like this is a bike made for a 50 or 60 people old.

    The old bike became more older and outdated…

    Too damn old!

  • Standards based

    Suddenly I’m not so mad at them for killing Buell.

  • ben j

    lol @ “fellow rider”

    i guess when ms. miller talks about riding dirt bikes, she was talking about harley dirt bikes. i see those things everywhere.

  • Grumpass

    I’ve finally figured why Harley is so in the shit….they drape a babe in the stars & stripes and you guys all fall over each other to say how great they are all of a sudden. It makes me sick.. Harley don’t give a shit about the Military – this is not a tribute, it is dredging the advertising barrel and milking you flag waving twits for all you’re worth. Where’s the innovation ? where’s the customer incentive ? (or customer respect, for that matter) It seriously makes me sick to think a shabby bit of patriotism & ass can have you all standing to attention.

    Wes says: “We’re surprised to see any motorcycle company demonstrating this level of cultural awareness” You are joking, right ? Do you seriously call this Walmart calendar art ‘aware’?
    Yes, I can see the Harley board kicking back & lighting cigars off 100 dollar bills as they see how easy it is to keep selling the same old shtick.

  • Paulo

    hmm kinda mish mash of styles , the 50′s pinup style of artist like Rolf Armstrong has always been a favorite of mine but it jarred with the speed metal soundtrack and Michael Bay-esque anamorpic lens flares. Personally would have liked to have seen her draped over some classic british cafe racers, (but bristish girls didn’t look like the 50′s ;) )

  • kidchampion

    Quite a change from their ad campaign targeted TO women. I’m a man and don’t mind the change but I imagine not enough women buyers responded to the previous campaign. The model is pretty and clean looking. Is Harley realizing historically they are the company that produces and markets cop bikes that get modified into outlaw culture bikes? Target audience: Give me a stock bike and a clean cheerleader and I’ll turn it into a custom chopper and a tattooed biker chick.

  • Robert


  • R6 Power

    Not really my type of bike, but this is a great way of cashing on cultural heritage.

    Marisa looks really hot in those photos, and the graphics and design are great!

    Anyway, they should still focus on building bikes with present day technology.

    I would think about buying one when I’m 40 or something.

  • johnny

    I love the 1940′s style campaign..a perfect fit for their technology!

  • V

    Looks good. It’s silly to criticize Harley for using sex to advertise. It works. Always. Have you guys watched MotoGP lately? I’m not looking at Valentino when the bikes aren’t moving.

  • Seymour

    Desperation. Die already, or sell yourself to someone who cares.

    (PS I’ve owned 5 Harleys)

  • Scottie

    I like the campaign, but wish they’d picked a brunette.

  • ducman

    Hey, if Harley wants to put Marissa in their ads and plaster them all over the media – I’m all for it. These are particularly nice concept ads, and the campaign’s being executed well. The pinup look is appropriate, and Ms. Miller is a stunning model.

    That said, this campaign isn’t necessarily going to broaden their appeal to women riders. Or even younger riders. The military is naturally home to a young generation of riders – and today’s young riders overwhelmingly favor sportbikes, whether they’re in the military or not.

    This ad campaign is like a hit of Viagra for the over-50 Harley crowd.

  • David

    This add series is more like beauty and the beast than anything else. Stunning and retro Miller makes the faux-retro nouveaux harleys look even more like plastic caked ripoffs with zero style or substance. The conflict between the style of the model and the classless music and fake tattoo art is just too much for me.

  • carbon

    Cool campaign!

    But what is with the fucktard-looking creative director and the hat the photographer wears in one shot? They ache with poseur-ness.

  • salad shooter

    Wow, a pretty labored and long-winded justification for posting 8 cheescake babe shots on the site. The [webmaster] doth protest too much…

  • Poor AD

    Well the 1940′s style ad is not far off from the technology of a new harley. Harley spends all of its R&D money designing new belt buckles, HD tee shirts, HD vests and don’t for get the official harley helmet the do – rag. When the baby boomer generation are riding wheel chairs then harley will be out of business. The younger generations will not sucker for that old technology or the so called harley lifestyle.

  • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

    Marisa Miller looks phenomenal. I didn’t think that woman could look any hotter but those pictures and layouts are fantastic.

    As for the bikes, I’ll believe in Harley’s commitment to their military history when they start making motorcycles that are actually good for riding. Right now all they’re doing is whoring their history to get people to buy the same junk they’ve been selling for years.

    They need to deliver a bike that is more substance than style. A a bike for people that want to spend the day riding, not sitting on their asses in wannabe tough-guy leathers at the local ‘biker bar’.

    • Bimmer

      Well stated Case. The harley bunch here have there weekly “Poker Runs” from bar to bar. They spend the whole day or afternoon riding a total of maybe 50 to 60 miles then brag about it. Morons dressed up like pirates with there loud exhaust.

  • http://www.so-sos.com/blog Yukes {SO~SO's}

    Of course you know those “Christian Audigier-influenced graphics” are Don Ed Hardy-influenced graphics who was apprentice to Sailor Jerry who was the inventor of the WW2 tattoo archetype.

    Yes, the “creative director” in the video is a phenomenal example of douche-baggery, but shame on you Wes for your LA bashing. I see what you did there.

    All jokes aside, HD still has a long way to go.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      Give us break, Yukio. You west-coasters get year-round riding weather, amazing roads, fantastic landscapes and legal lane splitting. Oh, and cheap hotrods AND brilliant mid-century houses, damnit.

      At least let us make fun of you for inventing bad taste. Stupid Flatbillers and your eagle stamps..

  • Me

    How definitely American of Harley Davidson to kill off Buell Motorcycle Company…

    Then to say how patriotic they are… putting good people out of work!

  • Dave Tweed

    I gotta say nice looking girl Bike well its heavy slow and overpriced . But hey Harley can cash in on the American theme with our kids. I remember being deployed in Europe way back when and we all craved anything from home. I can not see it being any different today. When I think of it that way I find myself snearing at H-D. Yes I am biased and a little disgruntled but I am honest BUELL the American Sportbike

  • racer318

    Nothing new here. Move along. Same old bikes, same old type girl to distract us from the fact that the bikes haven’t changed in 40 years.

  • Trackrider54

    Want a real tribute to America? How about not shutting down Buell and keeping 200 hard working Americans employed instead of terminating them during the holidays. Killing the only mass produced American sportbike sold across the globe. Yeah, REAL American of ya Harley. Way to go. Hope you sell a bunch of outdated, underpowered, chrome butt jewelry.

  • Asbjorn

    I suspected Harley leadership is driving the company by looking in the rear view mirror. This ad campaign confirms it.

    Won’t take long before a crash occurs.

  • Scorcher

    I’ve owned a few harleys in 40 years of riding(125ccthru 1200cc),never a new one, cause I couldn’t afford them.Now that I am better off in life,I have bought 3 new BUELLS in the last ten years. Just bought a 4th BUELL this week. Keeping them all. What dose that tell you h-d?

    • Scorcher


  • Kevin

    To me, Buell represented real American innovation, technology, and style, good enough to be judged against any other manufacturer in the world. Buell, not Harley-Davidson, evoked patriotic feelings in me.

    My Grandad would have loved these new ads. Trouble is, he isn’t buying bikes anymore.

  • Neil

    I think HD is way off base with these adds, The only reason a member of our military would want to buy one would be because there were no other choices in Iraq.
    I’d rather ride my Buell than push a Harley, unless it was off a cliff….

  • RT Rider

    Harley dumped the Buell line which was the only line of bikes they had that was directed towards a youthful buyer. There big mistake, in my opinion, was to market the Buell from harley dealerships. If a potential buyer walks into a harley dealership and he is not dressed like a pirate they ignore them. They should have had there own dealerships. Buell was just getting to dump the crap harley motor. The present baby boomer generation are just about done buying motorcycles. When that happens harley will be out of business. The younger buyers do not want that old technology and they are way overpriced. Harley spends to much R&D money designing a new belt buckle line or a new do rag line.

  • JT

    FAKE. Phony, pandering drivel. The Madison Ave set are at it again…What about the motorcycle that HD actually made for the military? Remember the Armstrong/Harley thing? That was actually a cool motorcycle, had a Rotax single, hard bags, lots of suspension….It was a piece of Military hardware. Can you imagine a marine going into battle in Afganistan, mounted on a “Soft-Glide” in “Radiant Seafoam Mist”? Who is buying this?
    The braintrust at HD is desperately searching for an alternative to the Teutls, and the answer that they came up with is TATTOS. Sailor Jerry, Ed Hardy, Von Dutch, Rockabilly, SoCal, ETC. ETC….
    Tatto Guys- It’s the next BIG THING!!!
    I am so glad that I don’t have a bunch of dumb retro tattos, hey at least you can SELL the chopper. –JT


    Is what we need REALLY another advertising campaign? Will this campaign bring someone into the flock that isn’t already? What does something like this cost?

    You wonder the health and longevity of a corporation when they fire the R&D guys and hire more marketing folks. So after eating Harley’s seeds in Buell now they are eating the wrapper the seeds came in?

    Guess this is what happens when MBAs, attorneys, and consultants who don’t even ride motorcycles are hired to run a motorcycle company. Shame on you Harley Davidson for killing the American Dream and then draping its coffin with its own flag.

    Watch the hottie and pay no attention to the consultant behind the curtain.

  • RT Rider

    Harley really does not know what to do. They have a out of date motorcycle line that has a very narrow market – older men. The were only able to sell a lot of bikes because they were giving credit to anyone who walked in the door. That is coming around and biting them in the ass now. The youth market thinks a Harley motorcycle is a joke and I do not blame them. Harley has been putting out the same old shit for years. There “new” model is an old one with a new paint job or more chrome. Dropping Buell was a HUGE mistake. When the old guys are too old to buy a bike Harley is out of business. They sell this “life Style” bullshit which is dress up like a pirate, put loud exhaust on and cruise around town pissing off the public.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Tom

    If Harley really wanted to be patriotic, then they’d make relevant bikes that would lead them to a future prosperity instead of succombing to bankruptcy due to their inability to respond to the change in demographics.

  • RT Rider

    Well at least the 1940′s ad fits the technology of the motorcycles they produce.