S1000RR Versus Japan: oops, Nazis

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At the first reading, this new ad campaign for the 2010 BMW S1000RR strikes a very literal interpretation. A german bike violently destroying traditional Japanese imagery sends the message: Germany is taking on Japan. Since the intended audience (existing superbike purchasers) will be very aware that the S1000RR is targeted directly at bikes like the Honda CBR1000RR and Yamaha R1 on price, spec and purpose, no further explanation is needed. There’s even nice, if slightly dated, references to pop culture in the clear influence drawn from Frank Miller, Manga and even the “Kill Bill” movies. There’s just one little problem: a likely unintentional association with Nazi propaganda.
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Traditionally, Manga is only black and white, not greyscale. Channeling
Miller’s Sin City and adding red is a clear attempt to jazz up images
that could otherwise fail to pop in environments crowded with glossy
colors. But, the combination of colors — black, white, red and grey –
is the iconic color pallet of Fascism and the Nazi party, witness the
original cover of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in the gallery above and
countless items of propaganda.

Then there’s the question of the Japanese characters depicted in the
ads: the helpless Geisha, the uncaring Samurai, the ponderous Sumo
wrestler; they’re all immensely negative, racist stereotypes. You could
easily substitute the hyper-feminine, unintelligent, weak Geisha in the
above ads for the hook-nosed Jew cowering in a corner that was depicted
in so many different forms of Nazi propaganda. Just as violence against
Jews was promoted and glorified by the Nazi party, these ads treat
violence against Japanese stereotypes as some sort of victory.

Do we think that BMW or the agency that created these ads, Serviceplan,
included the association with Facism intentionally? No. But it seems
like a remarkably stupid oversight when you’re creating work for a
company that made engines for German planes during WWII. After all, it
was only two years ago that a sensational documentary aired on German
television
revealing that the Quandts, the family that controls the
majority of BMW’s shares, built their fortune on the back of slave
labor during the war, then refused to pay reparations during the 1970s.
That’s not the kind of history you want to reference in an ad campaign.

Update: apparently this needs a little clearer explanation.
Forget for a second the Miller/Manga-style illustration, focus instead on what that’s illustrating: racist stereotypes being portrayed as powerless, the glorification of a hero acting violently towards those racist stereotypes, iconic colors borrowed from Nazi party propaganda. It’s not the individual presence of any one of those elements that makes us see a reference to the work of Joseph Goebbels, it’s the combination of all three. Sure, the illustration style confuses things, but it doesn’t remove the presence of that combination of characteristics. Japanese culture has been so appropriated in the west that racist stereotypes of the Japanese have become almost normalized here, but presenting the Japanese as uncaring brutes, ponderously comical fat people in thongs and child-like women is a fairly classic case of stereotyping.

So are we calling BMW Nazis? Are we offended? Of course not. What we’re doing is pointing out a fairly significant gaff made by some people paid for their ability to combine subconscious cultural cues into a visual work intended to manipulate you into buying stuff. Advertising is traditionally agonized over for weeks and months with every tiny detail held under a magnifying glass. The power of historical references in colors, subjects and contexts is a tool that’s understood and studied to reach those ends. That all of this cultural baggage has found a way into a campaign for BMW isn’t something we think is deliberate, it’s something we think is stupid.

BMW

  • AGP

    This has to be the stupidest, most demented post ever to appear on HFL.

    You guys have nothing better to do than dream up ridiculous connections to Nazi Germany from a motorcycle ad? Give me a break…

    • General Apathy

      +1..

      So the red ribbon is a reference to Nazis? or some printing of Mein Kampf?
      If this were a real journalism site I would call this a slow news day.

  • Someone

    This is not good

  • http://www.xborgforum.de Eric H.

    *This has to be the stupidest, most demented post ever to appear on HFL.

    You guys have nothing better to do than dream up ridiculous connections to Nazi Germany from a motorcycle ad? Give me a break…*

    Seconded.

    Wtf, Wes – care to explain…???

  • Ceolwulf

    Fascist or not, those are in pretty bad taste.

    • http://www.xborgforum.de Eric H.

      Oh ffs, it’s only art – let’s not over-react to a cartoon here…

  • Anders

    And the point of this article was…?
    I see no link whatsoever with nazi propaganda, if you squint there might be graphical touchpoints, but I mean, come on! And if BMW wasn’t a German company this would never be an issue.

  • wyatt

    Wes i have to agree this is a far stretch of thought and worse yet where is the picture of this bike in the flesh ?

  • John

    This has got to be the dumbest article ever written on a motorcycle website.

  • http://www.xborgforum.de Eric H.

    I wonder if Kevin Ash would ever have written anything like this…???

    Nah.

  • Carlos

    Ummm…..the Italians were facist. Ducati uses red exclusively. And black. Not much else. So any associations there? And 2 stroke moto racing was pioneered by a Hitler youth. It’s all pretty much tainted. Either way,BMW hasn’t gotten anywhere near yamaha or ducati as far as wsbk is concerned. So if i were a Japanese company, I wouldn’t be too worried. But ok, so they palced better than Kawasaki.

  • s0crates82

    i dunno, guys. it’s a bit of a stretch. besides, black, white, and red were the national colors of japan during the war too, you know, when germany and the empire of japan were allies.

    i see this as legit. the images all have extremely identifiable japanese imagery that’s, to be honest, fair game.

    as far as the mein kampf /leni riefenstahl / hitler design thing… that’s also a lil bunk, too. things that REALLY drew from that design philosophy would be the art concepts in richard III (with mckellen) and v for vendetta.

    i don’t think there was such an uproar about 007 posters in this scheme, or the design brands of the white stripes and u2.

  • Matt

    If this ad was on TV, there would be a media shit storm, and boycott of BMW products.

    • http://www.xborgforum.de Eric H.

      If so, only by Americans. In America.

  • michael

    Good on HFL for panning this cheap sensationalist ad campaign. Never mind the somewhat weak Nazi arguments, the issue is as Wes points out, that BMW has degraded itself, its loyal customers and insulted the motorcycle public with this kind of national stereotyping, to try to inflame latent anti-Japanese sentiment, to gain attention in their product.

    Has anyone else seen the obvious hypocracy too, in the fact that after decades of bragging about how different and superior BMW technology was, they specifically adopted Japanese superbike architecture (in-line transverse 4 cylinder engine, alloy twin spar frame, me-too styling, unified turn signal switches…) they attempt to tar in these ads?

    This sad and pathetic tactic will not woo potential S1000RR customers away from the competition, or hide that BMW had to slink away from Formula 1 after years as an embarrassing also-ran, or conjure up podium finishes in SBK, just as hiding behind silly proclamations of patriotism didn’t help Harley when their business went down the toilette.

    Shame on BMW.

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

    HAH. Yeah if Honda made an ad with the cbr1000rr beating up guys in lederhosen or cowboys in the wild west, people would find it in bad taste.

    It’s only because Japanese culture has been so popularly exploited that anyone sees this as acceptable.

    They should have had a BMW slaying godzilla or hello kitty or something. That would be sweet.

  • http://muthalovin.com the_doctor

    I think Godwin’s Law just exploded.

    @ AGP +2

  • hoyt

    I do agree that using “defeated” Japanese stereotypes to market a motorcycle is very dumb, childish, obsessive, & counterproductive, but I cannot see an “easy” association to Nazis….

    “You could easily substitute the hyper-feminine, unintelligent, weak Geisha in the above ads for the hook-nosed Jew cowering in a corner that was depicted in so many different forms of Nazi propaganda. “

  • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

    if BMW wasn’t a German company

    The problem is that it is. Design, especially in the context of advertising, has like every other field a history and is a studied process. Colors have meanings and histories of their own as well.

    It would be great if we could rip out social and political taints when we try to sell stuff and do whatever looked cool, but we can’t. It just doesn’t work that way.

    If you’ve ever sat in on an agency meeting when presenting creative for a large scale campaign, then you’d know details like this are agonized over. Revisions continuously made up till press checks, countless elements and copy tweaks are par for the course.

    What’s most shocking is not only how this got approved in the first place, but how BMW could have made such a faux pas in using red instead of the companies trademark blue. If they’d used blue (and I can’t imagine this didn’t come up in one of the meetings) then the racial digs at the Japanese as being helpless peasants would have probably gone unnoticed.

    This palette of black, red and grey when used by Germans will always have very dark nationalist undertones. There’s just no getting around that. Besides the posters, what are the colors of the Nazi uniform? The same. Millions died under those colors and you can’t wash that away just because the graphics are catchy.

    We’re not making this stuff up. It’s a widely studied history in the fields of design and art, and it deserves to be brought to attention when used inappropriately.

    • Rich

      Grant said, “It’s a widely studied history in the fields of design and art, and it deserves to be brought to attention when used inappropriately.”

      Okay. But, most people aren’t aware of the symbolism of red, white, black and gray as part of Nazi propaganda. Most people read into things what they see or are informed to believe is there. I think if you ran some sort of market research (not a focus group) the vast majority would see no link between the ad campaigns color choices and Nazi art. Just watch “Jay Walking” on Leno and you’ll see how woefully ignorant the American public is.

      I think the ads are designed to be humorous and communicate a message of a better performing product. “Our BMW (German) bike is better than your Honda/Yamaha/Suzuki/Kawasaki (Japanese) bike.” When I saw the images I thought of ICON’s advertising.

      Grant, you’re obviously a student of design and see things through that “lens.” But be careful about projecting your point of view onto things most people will never see.

      • http://www.zonenblog.de Sampleman

        But, most people aren’t aware of the symbolism of red, white, black and gray as part of Nazi propaganda.

        As fas as I can see, this ad does not contain any of the common nazi icons. And if somebody should try to force german advertisers not to use black, grey, red ad white, the german color palette would be rather poor. The color grey is of no special meaning in conjunction with the nazi party. If there was such a thing as a nazi color, it would be brown.

        This ad clearly says “Japan”, and it is targeted at those who dominate the world motorbike market – not very nazi, I think;-)

    • hoyt

      Assuming there was an easy association to Nazis, how do you reconcile the presumed association of Nazi dominance of Japan when the 2 countries were allies during the Nazi reign?

      @ CBontheMV — does that position result in actual sales or is it just short-lived chatter for the uninformed, headline-readers?

      • CBontheMV

        It’s usually just a tactic to create buzz about your product. Get people curious about what all the uproar is about. Given the amount of ad-blindness on the internet compounded by one of the worst world recessions in generations, I’m not surprised they went this route.

    • hoyt

      The red ribbon in the art plays off of the Rising Sun flag and not any Nazi b.s.

      If only the US had a performance bike to be “run off with” while our feminine beauty looks-on in an equivalent, nationalistic ad

      In that sense, the ad compliments the Japanese. (German engineering has borrowed Japan’s development).

      The art also celebrates ethnicity in motorcycling. The in-line 4 is associated with the Japanese like no other motorcycle engine to any other country (even the parallel twin to the British?)

  • The Dude

    I’m on the fence. Being of Easter European Jewish lineage, the whole notion of a German company using ethnic stereotypes to promote its products strikes a bit of a nerve. Especially when it’s a company with the history of BMW, as Wes accurately pointed out. So while not a fan of today’s hypersensitive, easily offended environment, I think this campaign takes it too far, when historic context is taken into consideration.

    On the other hand, BMW’s pravado is hard to take seriously, the way they got smoked in WSBK this past year.

  • ollieboy

    Most the articles on this site are insightful, humorous and intelligent.
    This is not.
    Your own site features design that is reminiscent of maps and imagery used in the American Civil War. A war based on racism, slavery, oppression and murder.
    Where do you get off accusing the BMW ads of being linked to Nazi imagery??
    What a load of bullshit.

    • Leek

      “Your own site features design that is reminiscent of maps and imagery used in the American Civil War. A war based on racism, slavery, oppression and murder.”

      Ollieboy makes a good point. There have been several instances where HFL has featured posts with pics with confederate flags, Stalin (or Lenin, can’t remember exactly) Russia, and Nazi Germany. Does this mean HFL associates with the ideals of the previously mentioned or am I reading to much into it?

  • CBontheMV

    As an online marketing specialist, allow me to chime in…

    You know what the best advertising is? FREE advertising. Mission: Accomplished.

    Look at those other suckers like Harley paying for banner ads. Pffft. Losers.

  • http://www.xborgforum.de Eric H.

    I can’t believe I’m reading any of this in a motorcycle forum of all places…

    People here reading this who has “issues” – either large or small, direct or indirect – with the colors used in a BMW motorcycle ad need to give their head a shake and lighten up…

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it turned out that Grant Ray is the owner of a WW2 Japanese Rising Sun flag-painted Suzuki Hayabusa…But that’s ok, right…???

    …or to find that michael rode a ratty H-D with a WW2 German stahlhelm wearing a t-shirt that says “Remember Pearl Harbour – Buy American”. But this is also ok, right…???

    And yet in either case, should neither I nor any other mature, intelligent and open-minded 21st century individual take offence or “faaa-reek” out about it.

    And really, those who do are either sheeple, hypocrites or trogolodytes.

    “Oh noooes! BMW just used black, white and red colors in a new motorcycle ad – quick, send the troops to the Polish border and keep an eye out for Fritz!”

    Please people, get lives and/or new hobbies.

    Best Regards,

    Eric H.

  • http://www.dainese.com DaineseDan

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  • robotribe

    Having just returned from Fukuoka, Japan, where I saw two different toy/collectable vendors selling Nazi flag embroidered patches (alongside other flags of various nations), I have to assume that some Japanese won’t be bothered by any Nazi connection whatsoever.

    And yes, I did puke a little in my mouth seeing those patches being sold as they were.

  • chuluun

    I’m on the verge of never visiting this site again after reading this pseudo-intellectual claptrap. Stick to talking about bikes please.

    • geonerd

      The swastika is a Buddhist symbol of good fortune, so it’s often used in retail areas in Asia. That might have been what you saw. I lived in South Korea for a while and it’s something I noticed right away.

      • General Apathy

        Excellent point geonerd!

        The Swastika has been in user since the Neolithic era. Were these cavemen Nazis too? It’s so ethnocentric to not see beyond some German regime that lasted less than 15 years.

        And as for those posters that say certain companies, from certain countries, can’t use certain color combinations; you so crazy!

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          That’s funny. The first edition Rudyard Kipling book I bought a while back, the one in which he coined the term “Hell For Leather” has a swastika on the title page. It meant something else in 1890 than it does today.

          • General Apathy

            Interesting Wes. I think you should incorporate That title page into your HFL logo.. dare ya! ;-)

      • robotribe

        I assume you meant this as a reply to my comment. If so, I can tell you with complete certainty that it was very much the Nazi flag (black swastika on white circle on red flag). Still, I’m also aware of the origins of the swastika you’ve referenced.

        • geonerd

          I did mean to reply to you.

          I remember seeing a huge Nazi flag hanging in a soccer stadium in Korea back in 2004. I was trying to think why it would be there, and the only thing I could think was that Koreans didn’t know the difference between a Buddhist swastika and a Nazi swastika. Something akin to the kid down the street from me who drives a Dodge Neon with a too-big body kit and giant vinyl kanji all over it. It could say “Kill all the round-eyes” and he’d never know. It just looks “ill” or something.

  • geonerd

    I think it’s actually pretting interesting. But if the number of “WTF” replies here is any indication of how the rest of the world views these ads, you’d have to wonder if it even matters.

    Still interesting though.

  • Isaac

    After examining the images I see no rason to believe that this is Nazi oriented in anyway. The reason for the colors (as any artist would know) has to do with what is known as color harmonies. Granted Cheyenne and Red go great together. Black and White have always been joined at the hip and red goes great with both of those. Also a the Japanese use Black and Red as well.

    I’m not going to flame Wes Siler. He just posted something he felt that he needed to and voiced his own OPINION. Just like all of us have.

  • James

    BMW invited the comparison by calling the campaign “S1000RR Versus Japan,” then showing the bike going after Japanese stereotypes, not Japanese bikes.

    I, personally, would enjoy this site a lot more if all the screamers with the “never visiting this site again” actually went through with it. You can get motorcycle-only reporting on dozens of other sites. It says “culture, style, design” right in the banner, for chrissake.

    • geonerd

      +1

      Even if it means ignoring the occasional reviews of tassled man purses. HFL is one of a kind.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        What’s wrong with a good tassled man purse? You’ve gotta keep your guyliner somewhere.

        In all seriousness guys, as Geonerd says, everyone needs to calm the fuck down. It’s not like we’ve gotten all offended by some ad campaign, we’re pointing out a very significant gaff on the part of BMW’s creative agency. If advertising and design aren’t your worlds, then just appreciate the insight Grant and I are able to give you into them.

        I just don’t get the lack of critical thinking most bikers display when it comes to media. You know all those handjoby reviews you read in We Blow PR People Monthly? They’re just an extension of the marketing process designed to manipulate you. If you can’t see a difference between that and the level of insight, honest analysis and considered opinion that takes place here then you need to have your head examined. We don’t compare ourselves to other bike publications and their regurgitated press releases, we look to mainstream media and adapt that style of voice, coverage and attitude, then apply it to the thing that we love: bikes.

        • Scheffy

          “I just don’t get the lack of critical thinking most bikers display when it comes to media.”

          Just because people don’t dig around for symbolism in a tricolor cartoon with a couple swooshes and stereotypes doesn’t mean they can’t tell when they’re being BSed in an actual article about a bike. In the end, these ads don’t really have anything concrete to say about the bike in question, so “most bikers” will move along to the next article before wasting any time critically thinking about it. By the very nature of it just being an ad most of us will probably completely ignore it anyway.

  • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

    Ha. I figured some of those wallets and bags would be cool for US women because, y’know, women ride bikes and want cool biker stuff too. Not just guys. But then everyone freaked like a mid-westerner who accidently walked into the gay leather shop instead of the Harley store down the block.

    And that crazy origami-folding wallet is still bad ass. Screw y’all.

  • gogo

    if BMW wasn’t a German company

    The problem is that it is. Design, especially in the context of advertising, has like every other field a history and is a studied process. Colors have meanings and histories of their own as well.

    It would be great if we could rip out social and political taints when we try to sell stuff and do whatever looked cool, but we can’t. It just doesn’t work that way.

    If you’ve ever sat in on an agency meeting when presenting creative for a large scale campaign, then you’d know details like this are agonized over. Revisions continuously made up till press checks, countless elements and copy tweaks are par for the course.

    What’s most shocking is not only how this got approved in the first place, but how BMW could have made such a faux pas in using red instead of the companies trademark blue. If they’d used blue (and I can’t imagine this didn’t come up in one of the meetings) then the racial digs at the Japanese as being helpless peasants would have probably gone unnoticed.

    This palette of black, red and grey when used by Germans will always have very dark nationalist undertones. There’s just no getting around that. Besides the posters, what are the colors of the Nazi uniform? The same. Millions died under those colors and you can’t wash that away just because the graphics are catchy.

    We’re not making this stuff up. It’s a widely studied history in the fields of design and art, and it deserves to be brought to attention when used inappropriately.”

    this article and the above quoted defense of it are absolute dribble.

    complete bullshit.

    to make some assumed correlation between the color palette of these ads alone and Nazi propaganda is utterly ridiculous. not to mention such Nazi trash has been gone for 60 years.

    i find the color palette to be in keeping with japanese anime traditions and can find no reason why this would be offensive or remind the japanese of Nazism, let alone the mention that the Japanese were not the victims of such propaganda but in fact more commonly its allies.

    this article is absolute drivel and i can believe im reading it on this site.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      gogo, as we and other commenters have made clear, it’s not just the colors, it’s the combination of several elements.

      Why are you so pissed off?

      • ollieboy

        ‘Why are you so pissed off?’

        WTF? HFL makes some ridiculous claims based around a sensitive topic and then wonders why people get pissed off??!

        If you’re going to go draw conclusions based on simple design then look down below the ‘submit’ button and you see a row of bombs that look very similar to those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the USA.

        Where do you get off writing this crap?

      • http://www.urbanrider.eu urbanrider

        I think some people are getting pissed off because most publications offline/online don’t feel able to say things exactly as they see it due to commercial constraints. Such frank commentary is not seen much in our ultra politically correct modern media. Go Wes! Even though I don’t agree with a lot of the article.

        However, I do think the links you make with the Nazi movement have a grain of substance. I think you are correct that the ad agency would have known they were sailing very close to the wind by using red throughout the campaign and it was a deliberate decision. These are most likely highly intelligent people and in trying to stoke anti-Japanese sentiment I think they show a lack of ideas and creative thought.

        Why are so few HFL readers not up in arms about such negative marketing practices??

        The day I start trying to demean or degrade my competitors in business will be a sad day.

        Ugly bike, crap marketing.

        • hoyt

          “demean or degrade my competitors” and “..very racist…..”The mistakes of the past should not happen again.”

          What?

          The 3 pictures depict cultural topics that are only Japanese.
          The 3 pictures have a red ribbon being tied to the red in the bike: the “RR” on the side.
          The red ribbon ties to another very Japanese element, the red ribbon in the Rising Sun flag.

          For a German company (that is rich in motive engineering) to boldly admit their design is tied directly to a Japanese development is flattering.

          At its worst the ad suggests, “Japan, you’re not the only ones that copy” (i.e. Japanese cruisers going after the HD market).

          None of the hyper sensitive bull exists.

          If only the US were depicted in the same way for one of our sport motorcycles by another country with that level of engineering skill.

  • http://www.schwarzwald.co.uk ralph hasenohr

    come on, this is absolutely ridiculous!

    don`t you guys use the same typeface for your “hell fo leather”-logo as it`s been used for the word “saloon” in the wild west?
    and, as we all know from the movies, indians were not allowed to go into a saloon. so you must be racists, too!

    best post was this one:
    sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  • Ze Germans

    I think it’s a bit far-fetched and I can’t really see any relation between the ad and Nazis. You can read something into anything if you really want to.

  • Ken

    My art director and I are ad guys with motorcycles. We dream of getting a job like this, so it hurts when someone blows it.

    This campaign is one of those “whoops, your brief is showing” ideas. Everyone knows what the agenda is, and if they didn’t before they do now. There’s none of the humour, class and intelligence I would expect from BMW, and to compound the offense they seem to have aimed it squarely at 16 year olds – hardly the audience for a top dollar superbike. You’d like to see yourself as slightly above the CBR/R1/ZX/GSXR hordes riding this thing.

    (By the way guys, I know you’re a touch defensive about it, but I do think the Nazi propaganda thing is a red and black herring. People have been ripping Goebbels off for years.)

  • AJ

    Utter bullshit. Slow news day, yes?

  • ollieboy

    BTW, yeah – the BMW ad is pretty piss poor. Not Nazi piss poor though

    • http://www.urbanrider.eu urbanrider

      BMW’s brand colour is blue. There had to be a rationale in choosing to use red. Sure it’s a very tenuous link to their nationalistic recent history but I really think it’s a deliberate one.

      The whole concept of the ad is ‘Germany vs. Japan’, if the agency REALLY did overlook the nationalistic connotations of red within the context of the ads then they are just very naive and BMW even more so for giving it the go ahead.

      Whether or not you saw the link when you looked at the ads doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have been aware that many people WOULD or COULD draw a link.

  • Ben

    i enjoy reading all sorts of articles on HFL, including Wes and Grant’s opinions on all sorts of stuff.
    i’m a fine art/design geek, and can see where the article is coming from.
    i also like the fact that, more than once, commenters have been told “if you don’t like it, stop reading”.
    if these sorts of articles are SO upsetting to you, why put yourself through it? just un-bookmark the site, fer chrissakes!

  • crinklesmith

    It’s actually quite refreshing to see something like this from BMW. Obviously, they want to appeal to the sporty bike guys, and I think that throwing out some dark, menacing and aggressive marketing will work well for them.

    The resemblance is of course easy to see, but as far as throwing the fascism card out, that’s a bit silly in my opinion. The National Socialism thing fell out of fashion a long time ago, (I hope) and while we should always remember the horrendous atrocities they committed, we shouldn’t get our panties in a bunch anytime a German based company decides to use black white and red in their marketing campaign. The political correctness thing, in my opinion, only inflames old animosities, and gets in the way of necessary conversation and debate to resolve the various racial and cultural problems we have with each other.

    I’m sure you realize that Imperial Japan wasn’t exactly a shining beacon of humanity either, just as the good old USA has it’s share of skeletons in the closet as well.

  • ollieboy

    ‘There have been several instances where HFL has featured posts with pics with confederate flags, Stalin (or Lenin, can’t remember exactly) Russia, and Nazi Germany. Does this mean HFL associates with the ideals of the previously mentioned or am I reading to much into it?’

    This is what pisses me off – the double standards. There’s blatant use of potentially offensive design on HFL yet they cite the use of ‘black, white, red and grey’ in a Manga stylee cartoon ad as a link with Nazi imagery.

    What say ye Wes?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Show me any images where we’ve ticked every box on Goebbels’ playbook — the red, black and grey pallet; casting racist stereotypes as powerless; promoting violence against races presented as inferior — in order to sell you something and I’ll gladly remove them.

      But honestly, I expect more from our readers than a knee jerk “PC Nazis!!1!” reaction to a story like this. We’re hardly proponents of generitastic culture. Use your noggin and re-read the article, maybe some of that critical thinking will sink in.

      • ollieboy

        Man, I like the design on your site.
        But I see more obvious use of symbols sourced from violence and genocide scattered around here than I do in that ad.
        ‘Goebbels’ playbook’? C’mon man, this is a reference to manga/graphic novels/slightly out of date cinema trends.
        I studied art and design history (including WW2 propoganda, architecture, symbolism, uniforms and insignia) for years and looking at that crappy ad didn’t make me think of Nazis. Hell, the Bauhaus inspired coffee maker you have in your kitchen has more in common with Nazi imigary than that advert.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      I’ll say. I’m afraid you aren’t clear when you reference the American Civil War, which by definition must be fought from opposing sides of countrymen. Both sides in this case could not and did not fight for the continuance of slavery and oppression as they were ideologically opposed. So much so that it remains the bloodiest war in American history. Maybe your comment suffers from a language barrier, I don’t know, and it’d be great if you could clear that up.

      But that’s beside the point. Both you and “Leek” are accusing HFL of using racist, bigoted, fascist and totalitarian themes such as the confederate flag in a positive light (which is just not the case) because I feel like you think you are personally slighted. There’s no slight though. This is just about an advertising mistake.

      Let’s make this even clearer.

      A German motor company with a tainted history releasing an ad that relies on ethnically derogatory imagery using historically loaded color themes to convey national pride is about as bright as Phillip Morris making tobacco ads using blackface or making pokes at American Indians to celebrate Americana.

      It’s just stupid, that’s all.

      • ollieboy

        I’m not offended my the design on your site, I just think that this article is BS about a sensitive topic.

        look here for typical WW2 invasion map:
        http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk/EuropeatWar/images/map.jpg

        Am I wrong in thinking you use the same arrow motif for your website? Your reports are written in the style of military reports. You use sepia colours with black and red in your colour pallette, just like the BMW ad.

        I think your website has as much in common with some set of genocidal design rules as the BMW ad has. Absolutely nothing in common, that is.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          There’s a big difference between referencing a period and using rules developed by a very bad person in order to achieve a commercial goal.

          Of course our design is based on WWII-era maps, typography, military hardware, photography etc. We looked back at where traditional motorcycle iconography came from — ex GIs and pilots leaving the military and looking for a similar experience on the open road — and are trying to re-interpret that look into something more contemporary.

          Goebbels is famous for being the first person to really master using media to manipulate the general populace. As part of that he developed a very powerful style of graphic design. As described above that consists of: the red, black and grey pallet; casting racist stereotypes as powerless; promoting violence against races presented as inferior.

          Our point here isn’t that the color red is evil or that BMW are racists or that we’re offended or anything else silly, it’s that there’s been an ad campaign created that somehow manages to combine all the hallmarks of Goebbels propaganda for BMW, a company that tries to distance itself from a past that’s associated with some of the fouler elements of Germany during the first half of this century. We’re not saying BMW has a secret agenda, we’re not saying they’re deliberately trying to be offensive, we’re pointing out that someone was very stupid and managed to inadvertently create a campaign that could piss off the wrong people.

          As Grant says, it’d be the equivalent of an American company with a history of exploiting black people publishing an ad that used black face.

          Advertising is something people (occasionally Grant and I) get paid a very large amount of money to get absolutely right. This time they screwed up, that’s notable.

          • ollieboy

            ‘We looked back at where traditional motorcycle iconography came from — ex GIs and pilots leaving the military and looking for a similar experience on the open road — and are trying to re-interpret that look into something more contemporary.’

            Well, WW2 GIs were often uneducated, poor, oppressed people from ethnic minorities sent to die in the mud on the other side of the world. Hardly empowered people

            Also, your use of WW2 based iconography, particularily the little bombs that look exactly like Little Boy and Fat Man seem to glorify the bombing of Japan. The only nuclear attack in history. An attack that took 220 000 civilian lives over a period of 3 days..

            Or am I just reaching for something that isn’t there?

          • pj

            “Goebbels is famous for being the first person to really master using media to manipulate the general populace” Any one of thousands of historical figures did this before Goebbels. Your response to a number of coments has been quite condescending, like people arn’t clever enough to get your great insights. Great way to appeal to your readers.

      • Leek

        Grant,

        Let me begin by saying I comprehend the logic behind you and Wes’ interpretation of the ad. I personally don’t see it and think its a big stretch. Because of this, I find it interesting relative to the previously mentioned imagery on this site.

        No, I’m not calling you all racists, bigoted, etc., nor am I slighted. I just think its questionable to include that kind of imagery on your site. I’ve asked myself several times, why and where do they get theses pictures from? What’s the point? So, in this context it seems odd to have you all criticize this BMW ad. That’s the point I was making.

        Thanks for an interesting discussion.

  • meatspin

    its a horrible design and very racist. Thank you Wes for bringing this to our attention. The mistakes of the past should not happen again.

    http://www.life.com/image/53368255

  • Not the same Matt as (way) above

    Of all the criticism you level at various bike makers for their mistakes/shortcomings/failures/what-ever-you-don’t-like, I’m shocked at the amount of angry replies this has generated. Not even Harley bashing pisses this many people off.

    That said, I think that what you have described will not be recognized by most people. Even having it spelled out to me it’s a bit of stretch for my mind to jump from that ad to Nazi propaganda; Frank Miller definitely comes to mind first. Perhaps people are questioning you on this because you seem to have a habit suggesting that BMW ads display racial insensitivity. Recall: http://hellforleathermagazine.com/2009/04/bmw-tries-to-be-urban-marketin.html

  • Charlie

    Its a bit of a stretch, there just saying that the BMW is better then its Japanese counterparts. Im going to go ahead and “forget” that i saw this on HFLM. I do see the “Kill Bill” thing though, kick ass move… Isn’t there a auto show going on right about now, im going to assume that Wes put this up real quick because he was busy covering something else for Jalopnik, like said auto show.

  • Greg

    It’s off-the-wall, thought provoking, opinionated commentary like this that keeps me returning to Hell For Leather. I would have never drawn the link that Wes provided in his article; at most I might have simply concluded the series of ads didn’t work for me. Wes may be reaching pretty far on this one, but it’s not that ridiculous of a viewpoint. It would be interesting to see a rebuttal from BMW.

    I don’t agree with all that is written on this site, but I appreciate the alternative take the editors provide – at the very least it’s entertaining. Keep up the good work Wes and Grant!

  • http://bubblevisor.blogspot.com/ lenny

    wtf?
    why?
    not enough hits lately?

    “Traditionally, Manga is only black and white, not greyscale” ….?

    what are you talking about?
    most modern black and white manga is using grey gradients.

    the cover of mein kampf is a photo not a manga or comic style drawing. most fascist propaganda is using all kind of simple color combinations not only black, red and grey and the style they use has nothing to do with this ad…

  • Robert – Brisbane

    Seems as though most of these comments are ‘playing the man’ instead of ‘playing the ball’. They gloss over the ridiculous appearance of the BMW S1000RR itself. The front view looks like a motorbike version of Popeye the Sailor Man.

  • Darren

    One word…. reaching. Please man, give it a rest.

  • Stephen

    Instead of using this retarded anime crap, why not go back to using sex to sell bikes? Take a Sienna Miller clone, dress her in a bikini and high heels and drape her over the bike. That is definitely sexist but why not? At least there won’t be tedious discussions on totalitarian iconography as a marketing tool.

  • Scott

    Leni Riefenstahl… really? Come on Wes. Stop trying so hard. Go ride a motorcycle.

  • Witblitz

    Provocative, racist, jingoistic, symbolic of all the wrong things, aggressive, propagandistic, nationalistic, insensitive, misplaced, completely devoid of merit as a motorcycle ad supposedly designed to effectively sell the merits of the product…

    BMW fucked-up good and solid.

    HFL rightly pointed that out to us through some natty journalism true to their well established style.

    So whats your friggin problem?

    • http://www.xborgforum.de Eric H.

      I think the problem here is that Wes Siler is predjudiced against Germans – or at the very least – predjudiced against BMW GmbH. and that he chooses to use this media to perpetuate his personal hatred of anything German…

      Unfortunately, this then creates a whole new problem – having to read through the mindless textual drool of the one-dimentional lemmings that actually and agree with him as I follow the progress of his offensive and racist thread.

      Mit besten Grüßen,

      Eric H. – Hamburg, Deutschland

  • CJ

    The article lacks intelligence, maybe the author should work for the inquirer instead.

  • Sean Smith

    So… BMW is gonna crush the japanese blitzkrieg style? I like my GSXR, but it’s neat to see someone else taking a serious swing at the literbike market.

  • Bugsy Siegel

    Will the Cubs EVER win a World Series?

  • Nkosuohene

    I’ve only been coming to this site for a couple of months and have come to relish its take on any number of issues, its relationship to more than just bikes and am elated to find this amazing “conversation” taking place. Most of what I might add to the conversation has been said and said well. Thanks for stimulating and insightful articles like this one. Please keep it up.

  • Bud

    Best motorcycle post I’ve read all day. HFL kicks ass.

  • Shinigami

    Geisha are certainly “hyper-feminine”… but “unintelligent and weak”?

    Last month I was at a dinner with two Japanese businessmen in teh historic city of nara (near Kyoto). Each of us was attended by a Geisha.

    Their musical ability, poetic recitation ability, ability to sit in seiza for three hours, and their perfect attention to detail indicates tremendous training and mental discipline. Hardly weal or unintelligent, unlike the silly editorial expressed here.

    You just dropped to a 3 out of 10 on my respect scale.

  • tom

    Wow! Wes, Grant
    You guys are normally out on a limb.
    But this is really really out on the slenderest of twigs.

    If you’re paid so much to do advertising,
    I’d suggest you might want to stay there,
    as you’re not doing a very good job as a “motojournalist” that’s for damned sure.

    Your shtick about this ad campaign is funny.
    coming from a website that apes the look and feel of 1% MC with your “logo” which is really just a couple of fonts.

    Oh wait, Your logo, I get it now…It’s black and red and white and the font, the silly little winged head icon thing…
    Maybe you’re looking to cash in on that “coolness” that a couple of the most well known 1% MC have.
    You know the Red & White and the Black & White clubs.

    That’s why you “ad guys” are so bent out of shape.

    You think someone else might be taking a play out of Marketing and Advertising 101, take something that’s bad and use the image to make your “product” tough, or cool or bad ass.

    Hits to close to home. Only yours really did use that imagery and and BMW’s well they are only using it in your head.

  • ryan

    Once again the point is totally missed.

    Given that most motorcycle companies resort to using stereotypes to promote their goods, especially the japanese companies “fireblade, katana, hayabusa etc”
    This whinge article just misses the fucking point.

    Oversensitive nancy boys the lot of you.

    1. the girl is not a geisha, the makeup is wrong. The automatic connotation that the woman is weak and powerless says more about the person complaining about it than it does the advertisement itself.

    2. Comparing a bike to strong warlike charactes which clearly represent the current top of the line products of the market you’re trying to go into and presenting images which show you carving them up is a valid use of metaphor.

    Wes, the advertisements don’t say that a race is any better than another, they’re claiming their bikes are superior to another manufacturers bikes. It’s pretty simple.

    Besides, given the fact that there is precedent for vehicles to be marketed as the direct competitor to another company’s flagship product (Nissan GTR vs Porsche GT3)means that not only have tools like this been used before, competition between products can hardly be construed to be stirring racial tensions.

  • Denzel

    Lest we forget who the marketers are marketing to: post adolescents for whom dramatic cartoon imagery, manga or otherwise,strikes a chord, especially if it involves ass-kicking, symbolic or otherwise… I suspect these were the topics of the ad agency meetings… fascist connections being easily missed by the thirty somethings whose creative juices spawned this derivitive boring crap.

  • Bakafish

    I think you completely over stretched here guys. Trying to tie these admittedly cartoonish ad’s to Naziism is as bad as the fools who try to do the same thing with any political position they don’t like. And as far as Japanese culture is concerned, they have far thicker skins about things than you seem to. My friends over here (I live in Tokyo) didn’t think there was anything offensive with the imagery at all. Accusing German people of being Nazi’s for this add is pretty fucked up and irresponsible, and I expect better editorial oversight in the future. How stupid would you think someone is for saying you guys all worship Satan because your magazine is called “Hell for Leather?” Right, pretty dumb.

  • http://www.caferacers.dk Olle

    OK HFL-guys! This is really a stupid interpretation. You are seeing ghosts and you are really being overly sensitive – don’t try stir something up that isn’t there.

  • Robert

    lol

    Wes, whats with your irrational hatred of all things German? :P

    Well stated ollieboy, if a bit far afield.

    What is striking about the ads is the violence that is the focal point of the pieces. Seems odd to me since it distracts from the achievement of their motorcycle.
    Immature and overzealous, to say the least.

    • ollieboy

      lol, that’s my point. If you’re going to make the statement made in this article then you may as well make similar ‘far afield’ statements about the design on this site.

  • Peter

    I do love HFL, but that was a bit too far out.

    Yes, BMW ads för S1000RR have been a bit strange, but they are in the same way kind of cool. I mean look at the earlier model shoots.

    But BMW and nazist…..??
    Naw..

  • http://www.hasenohr.com ralph hasenohr

    and, …
    do you really think, people working in advertising are soooo clever?
    thank you!
    but i think, there`s absolutely no strategy “behind” all that.
    there`s just the idea to compete against the japanese bikes.
    and maybe an art director who likes “sin city”.
    basta così.

    but, if there`s a strategy, there`s a snag:
    everything on the s1000rr is typical japanese: engine, look, …
    i think, the better way to compete against these great japanese superbikes is to build a totally different bike – like aprilia with the v4 or ducati does it. right?

    ralph, art director and riding a ninja zx10r

  • LightningXB

    What a fuXXXing stupid bullshit! Did you forget your medicine?

  • Scott

    Wes,

    These pictures were not commissioned for an ad campaign. Where did you ever see that? I really think you have totally missed the point.

    These images were commissioned by BMW, as a art project, by two (I assume) well known German artists/photographers. Quote from the BMW release:

    S 1000 RR: when photography and illustration collide

    The eagerly-awaited BMW S 1000 RR will soon be unleashed on an expectant public. To build on the anticipation that already surrounds the new BMW superbike, two world-renowned artists have created a special project that illustrates the bike, in more ways than one.

    To link this experiment in art to Nazis is pretty lame. I assume you did that just to up your website figures and cause a bit of controversy. Shame, as it is very lazy journalism.

    You really should let these kinds of things go.

    I’m sure if I look hard enough with a bitter eye I can find Harley advertising campaign that, with about the same small amount of imagination you used in this story, could be attributed to an American atrocity committed at some point in history.

    • Matthew

      Thanks for pointing that out, Scott. Wes, why did you blame this on Serviceplan?

      Here’s a writeup of the project: http://www.bmwplanetpower.com/?p=889 And the artist’s site: http://www.reneneumann.de/

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        Because Serviceplan commissioned and approved the work and it’s art as advertisement. Hit the link in the article for details.

  • amsterdam

    ‘If advertising and design aren’t your worlds, then just appreciate the insight Grant and I are able to give you into them. ‘

    ‘Use your noggin and re-read the article, maybe some of that critical thinking will sink in.’

    ‘Advertising is something people (occasionally Grant and I) get paid a very large amount of money to get absolutely right. This time they screwed up, that’s notable.’

    No Wes.
    You screwed up.
    And please don’t talk down to your readers.
    Thank you.

    (artist and art director)

  • carlos

    damn “creatives”…

  • AadmanZ`

    Anyone care to mention the HD Fatboy with all its’ references to the nuclear bombing of Japan?

    The color scheme in my opinion is (as mentioned before by hoyt ) one based on the Rising sun flag. This scheme is used widely by Japanese companies (red logos for almost all Japanese bike and car manufacturers anyone?) and in japanese art.

    • Tomas M

      I wonder if Wes or Grant could do a follow-up piece on the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy from 1980′s. It would fit in this link, which obviously generated a lot of interest and mostly well read, informative, funny and smart comments. I heard that the name Fat Boy is a variation of the two atomic bomb names, that the yellow stripes on the bike’s first year edition exactly replicate (in number) similar stripes on the bombs, and that the ad campaigne had a motto “US does it to Japan again”. I don’t know if it’s all true, but somebody mentioned it here earlier and I think it’s worth elaborating upon.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

        Tomas, I’d never heard that. Sadly, I’m in no way surprised that that’s how one of the stupidest-named bikes ever got its name. Or that H-D used that line as sales tool, especially considering the Screw It campaign. That said, there’s only so many times you can shoot fish in a barrel..

  • wbkr

    This is the same kind of hissy fit that was posted earlier, also about a BMW campaign. HERE ->
    http://hellforleathermagazine.com/2009/04/bmw-tries-to-be-urban-marketin.html

    I stoppped visiting this site for a long time after that, but I guess it’s time to step back again.

    I’m so astonished by how stupid this article is that I can’t even come up with a proper insult.

  • mbob

    This article reads as if it was written by a college student. Not ready for prime-time in my opinion… But it’s your website, and you can post whatever you want. Can’t wait to read your next assignment.

  • ruediger

    Selten so einen Unsinn gelesen. Der Autor tut mir leid…

    • carlos

      translation please?

      • Zed

        Carlos – google translate works

  • Matthew

    If you’re going to break out your art history, you can’t stop in the early twentieth century. You have to look all the way back and recognize that the red/black/white color palette goes back to prehistoric art. It is the most psychologically stimulating palette to humans, the earliest examples being at least as old as the Levant cultures that predated the ancient Greeks and Egyptians.

    However, I agree that this campaign IS very weak and DOES pander to low-brow, thuggish street bike culture with the cultural stereotyping and violent illustration. I imagine that the people who will be stimulated by it are the kids who stunt on the freeway during rush hour. I don’t see the campaign as fascist in the directly-referencing-Nazi-Germany sense, but it might be fascist in the values it is promoting.

    I expect better from a company that brought us BMW Films, but ultimately this is a failure on the advertising firm’s part and not so much on BMW’s. If you look at the other ads BMW has been buying you can see that they aren’t being presented the strongest ideas on the planet (or at least are accepting week material), but still this isn’t BMW’s fault per se. One of my mantras is “The client will always choose the weakest work” and that may be what happened here.

    Ad firms can be very convincing and regularly talk big companies that should know better into bad ideas. Look at the recent Tropicana rebranding. The most famous ad man in the world + Pepsi = failure.

    In the end, though, both BMW and the ad firm should have had the foresight to see the potential for this reaction and should have rejected (or at least redirected) the idea to compensate. I’m not surprised that Serviceplan executed this campaign after looking at their other work, though: http://www.serviceplan.de/nc/en.html

    And to all of you saying this conversation shouldn’t be on this sight, stop bitching and go somewhere else to not think. This is exactly the kind of content that keeps me coming back to HfL. You don’t have to agree, but if you don’t have something to contribute, do like your momma sais and keep your mouth shut.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      Matthew, I’m not saying those colors are bad in all contexts or that they’ve only been used for bad or that we’ve only seen them combined in the 20th century, or that BMW had the slightest of ill intentions. We both know that’s not the case. For example, use that palette with a Nationalist bent in Russia and it makes me think Constructivism and grass roots movements for the common good. (Y’know, in the pre-Stalin gulag days.) Russian companies can do that, but German ones using that palette to convey messages of Nationalism illustrating German machines defeating unarmed, ill-matched caricatures of another ethnicity? Probably not such a good idea.

      Thanks for the enlightened commenting, btw.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83E_67XqNP4 uberbox

        Grant and Wes, do you guys remember not so long ago when Yamaha (Star) had their launch party for the V-max? They did it on the deck of a US aircraft carrier The USS Midway.

        Clearly this was also a HUGE oversight by the Japanese company to have a motorcycle that so represents extreme power from the Empire of Japan doing burnouts on the deck of a boat named after one the most infamous battle locations from the pacific theater, one where the Japanese intention was to demoralize the United States. Not to mention that during the war Kamikaze flew their planes into the decks of US carriers.

        I don’t recall any mention of this from you guys? Maybe I’m being ridiculous in thinking that a company like Yamaha should have been more sensitive to possible implications of this marketing stunt?

  • http://www.xborgforum.de Eric H.

    *”Hyper Sensitive, Kaleidoscope? As a card-carrying, federally registered member of the Creek Nation, (yeah, the one Andrew Jackson forcefully evicted from their lands and then marched them across half the continent to the Oklahoma territories), yes, I am sensitive to all forms of exploitation of indigenous peoples.

    Letting this slide by because of a bunch of white guys’ perceived idea of BMW’s intentions about a marketing campaign by an advertising team (of more white people) that knows better is just another form of the Good Old Boy culture. One that frankly, I’ve never really been a 100% part of.

    Intentions do not excuse ill results. Or as the women of my family put it, the road to Hell is paved with the best of intentions.

    Grant Ray replied to comment from Kaleidoscope | April 18, 2009 10:14 PM | Reply “*

    Judging from the above comments taken from the “BMW tries urban marketing” thread here:

    http://hellforleathermagazine.com/2009/04/bmw-tries-to-be-urban-marketin.html

    …it would seem as though Grant (an American) has a 200 year old chip on his shoulder and that his favorite frustration-relieving punching bag is the BMW company. And, by proxy, this goes for Wes (another American) also.

    Now, I wonder what these two gentlemen have to say about oh, let’s say the “Rebel Flag” adorned “General Lee” vehicle in the American television series/movie “Dukes of Hazzard”…???

    Did/do Grant and Wes sit watching in disgust thinking only about the descendants of the poor negro slaves of the southern plantations felt about having to see this “good ol’ boy” decorated orange, red, white and blue chariot of Satan…??? Did they write to the television network while pointing accusing fingers that the show was in poor taste, racist, marketed poorly and that it should be cancelled forthwith…???

    Or did they just sit there gobsmacked with hard-ons staring at Daisy Duke’s big tits for an hour once a week…???

    Careful guys – this is a hypocracy test… ;-)

  • Feds

    An alternative take on the ads, in order:

    The unidentified motorcycle: Chicks dig it. Plus it’s fast enough to pull their makeup off. “makeup” could equal “clothes”

    The unidentified motorcycle: Too fast for old squids. That guy should really have a helmet on.

    The BMW Whoozits: Runs circles around fat guys. Hmmm, “fat guy” could be a reference to overweight Japanese motorcycles… Deep.

    So yeah: targeted at stereotypical short-penised men, just like every beer commercial, half-tonne truck ad, AXE commercial, and on, and on, and on. BMW can be accused of aiming low with this project, but the Nazi link is especially tenuous considering that one leg of the Axis WAS the Japanese.

  • Steve F

    You know what else is black, white, and red? Newspapers!

    • carlos

      funniest thing all day

  • Steve F

    You know what else is black, white, and red? The Hell For Leather logo!

    It must neo-nazis who designed it!

    • TeeJay

      BINGO! :DDD

  • TeeJay

    HFL hit the bottom of the stupidity. You seriously believe what you wrote or you’re just up for the clicks?

    This article is a lot more about your fears and paranoia (too much junk in there?) than the actually the ad represents. You are claiming the history of Quandts? C’mon, you live in a country which plotted and executed Operation Paperclip. A country which attacked several countries for World domination. A country where people re-elected Bush. A country where people get killed just because they have white/red/yellow/brown/black skin. You’d rather stop pointing fingers…

    BMW’s ad, however, can be condemned. It is a wanna-be trendy, profound, artistical…crap. You are right about one thing: it was a waste of money.

  • ruediger

    “Selten so einen Unsinn gelesen. Der Autor tut mir leid…” means, that I never have read such a ridiculous nonsense. I am sorry for the author…

    Maybe something was wrong with the turkey last week or Wes smoked something poor and wrong – don’t know.
    It may be, that certain combinations of colour in advertising are used for the transportation of certain values, emotions and sometimes they even represent a certain style. Interpreting this ad in the screwed way mentioned in the article above, just leaves me shakin’ the head.
    I wonder what Wes’ reaction would have been like, if this ad would have shown a naked, muscled male chest, like at the Davidoff ‘cool water’ advertising. Imagine it would have been in black and white, or sepia maybe!? Oops, Leni Riefenstahl, Nazi-alert yet again…

    But coming back to Motorcycles again. Me personally I don’t like this ad, too. Usually BMW stands for a kind of noble understatement; tecnologically cool, but without true emotions, solid engeneering at least but by all means… After all it’s unaffordable for the ‘average’ customer.
    So why do they start such a riot using Manga-styled ads pointing at teenagers who will fail to afford even a driving license in times of crisis?
    A change of image? Viral marketing? Do we have to expect war-paint on the next model-cyclus?
    Due to press releases the partnership of BMW and its new advertising agency is just about to start and it is meant “to lift the recognition of the brand to a new level in public awareness”.
    So folks, be prepared for some more curios stuff coming out of this corner…

  • carlos

    Ultimately, IMO in the sportbike market, the best advertising for BMW will be: a trophy, a podium, a championship.

    And maybe a Rossi-fumi(what a thought! oh wait! germans and italians teaming together, oops, facist. noooooo).

  • K2theM

    Personally the only one I find appealing is the “Geisha” ad. It shows the the bike is a surprise, fitting since it’s from Germany, not Japan. If you notice the bike is not “demoralizing” or “belittling” the woman depicted. At best it’s screwing up her morning makeup. Note the brush that is falling from her hand?

    As compositions these do not resemble the Nazi images you reference. You are correct that they resemble the Frank Miller school of thought when it comes to ads/look and feel, but how you got Nazi out of this is beyond me, unless it’s because it’s German so everything they do that is red/black/white is Nazi right?

  • powermatic

    Interesting analysis, though I think it’s easy to over-think any creative output. On the other hand, some of the negative backlash to Wes’ writeup is way over the top. At any rate, I won’t be selling my BMW on the basis of this ad campaign, and I personally thought that the unraveling of the sumo’s mawashi was pretty clever.

  • Név

    Ez egy szar amerikai hülyeség. Nem is nevezném cikknek. Amerika elmehet a francba.

  • Név

    Ja és most fordítsátok le kiskancsók, mert én értem, amit ti írtatok, de ti nem értitek, amit én. Na, akkor most ki a kevesebb? Amíg én többet tudok angolul, mint ti magyarul, addig nektek kuss van, nehogy már én érezzem magam rosszul, ha te idejössz én meg nem tudok tökéletesen angolul!

  • user_nemo

    I am a BMW fan, but this campaign is totally stupid. I do not take issue with the color combination, but with the picture content.

    - What does a showboat motorcycle have to do with inflicting pain on people?

    - A motorcycle can look / feel aggressive, but does it have to hurt others? They are not even riders! A disgruntled face would have been enough. Way too strong statement IMHO.

    - The S1000 has been built on Japanese field research. Honda and others have created the current “Superbike recipe”; BMW has just applied this recipe (in a rather conventional way).

    This campaign is unnecessarily aggressive towards Japan. I pity BMW for such an incredibly poor manners. They should fire the guy who authorized this.

  • http://http Poppawheelie

    My two cents: These ads are in bad taste, very bad taste. Not intentional, but a “remarkably stupid oversight” by the ad company and BMW. BMW better act and act quickly to pull these ads.
    Poppawheelie

  • Shrike

    Sorry.

    You have the best Moto blog on ze planet but right up until you put the hitler poster next to the images they where not the least bit Nazi. This analogy holds as much water as calling De Angelis gay because he has the rainbow helmet. If you stare long enough at television snow you will see what your mind want’s to see. I think hellforleather saw filllerrcontent…. oooohhhhh. Besides, Hitler and Guering drove Mercs not Beemers.

    /steps off soapbox

    /down with zealous political correctness.

  • Shrike

    Oh… and before I forget…. Japan…. ummmm… emmm… where members of the Axis… soooo…. POW!

    • D2

      Luv the new ads, Nice job BMW!

  • Shrike

    Ok. Ok. Not spamming. Swear it’s the last post on this but it hit me a few minutes after reading this ad. It references how Japanese stereotypes are being exploited by a German company. I remembered when Japanese stereotypes where exploited by a Japanese company… One mentioned in the article in fact. FYI this use to be one of my favorite commercials as a kid. Enjoy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs9lE94XQaU

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Thanks for the compliment and I’m sure that we’ll continue to meet your high standards even if you disagree with a story here and there.

      I really don’t get why people are interpreting this as an attempt by us to impose political correctness. Since you’ve been reading a while I’m sure you’ve noticed that we swear, make off color jokes, say things no other bike publication will say and generally raise hell. All we’re trying to do here is make fun of a creative agency for screwing up and explain why they did so.

      I love that Honda Hurricane ad too, it’s a great example of a brand not taking itself too seriously and having some fun subverting people’s negative perceptions about it. But surely you see the difference between a Japanese company making fun of Japanese culture and another company using racist stereotypes to present a message of superiority over the culture it’s being racist about. Think of that word rappers like to use in music videos that us whities aren’t supposed to say ever. Same idea.

  • http://www.xborgforum.de Eric H.

    Wes wrote:

    “But surely you see the difference between a Japanese company making fun of Japanese culture and another company using racist stereotypes to present a message of superiority over the culture it’s being racist about.”

    No Wes, the vast majority of us replying to your original article STILL do not see how BMW used racist stereotypes to present a message of superiority over the culture it’s being racist about. The majority of us only see a form of modern art. The majority of the readers repling to this ever-lengthening thread can’t and won’t be brainwashed by you and/or Grant’s repetative attempts to use the Jedi Mind trick on us to see what isn’t there…

    Tip: In the future, keep your thoughts and opinions about Nazis seperate from the world of motorcycling and to yourselves rather than up on your blog for all to see. Then you won’t come off like the typical Jerry Springer’esque American morons we’re so used to dealing with over here. We’ve come to expect just a litle more than that from you…

    Tschüß,

    Eric H.

    • Ammerlander

      I´d say the comparision to the General Lee is invalid as Bo and Luke Duke are as far as i know entirely fictional while the BMW marketing department most likely isn´t. I don´t see any reason to be offended by anything a fictional character does. On the other hand when people are sporting a confederate flag on their ride in real life there might be reason to be offended or just to pity the fools just as there was when BMW published these clumsy advertisements.

      The HFL-guys think they look like Nazi Propaganda and wrote an article about that.
      Neither do I understand why you get so worked up about that nor where you get the idea that you are speaking for the majority, Eric.

      Just like Grant said, you need to relax.

      • http://www.xborgforum.de Eric H.

        “I´d say the comparision to the General Lee is invalid…” snip

        You’ve missed the point.

        “The HFL-guys think they look like Nazi Propaganda and wrote an article about that.
        Neither do I understand why you get so worked up about that…”

        I am German. That’s why.

        “…nor where you get the idea that you are speaking for the majority, Eric.”

        I meant the majority of those people who have repolied to this article. Go back and count how many people oppose Wes’s opinion and how many people agree with Wes….

        Let me save you some time – the majority of the replies thiusfar oppose his opinion…

        “Just like Grant said, you need to relax.”

        Am am very relaxed… :-)

        Best Regards,

        Eric H.

  • http://www.xborgforum.de Eric H.

    Btw, nice dodge of my “Rebel Flag/General Lee/Dukes of Hazzard” question yesterday, guys…

    Go on, prove to us that you’re not just a pair of sensationalist hypocites…

    Tick-tock…

    Best Regards,

    Eric H.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      Eric, your aggression is pretty intense and you’re clearly personally offended. Deeply so, in fact. Unfortunately , there’s not much more I can say to explain why a+b+c=bad motorcycle advertising. Or that this article has nothing to do with the quality of BMW’s machines, which are fantastic, or the ethical mindset of the company.

      As for the General Lee reference as a claim of hypocrisy, since you can’t show me where I’ve used or shown that flag for anything other than reportage of a moment witnessed or to convey context for a newsworthy event, then I’m afraid your claim is less than moot.

      I honestly don’t understand why you are freaking out. Relax, go for a ride, do whatever. I really think you’re making too much of this.

      • http://www.xborgforum.de Eric H.

        @ Grant Ray…

        You’ve misunderstood me somewhat it seems – allow me to make myself clearer…

        I am not being aggressive in the traditional way you mean. I am however, “aggressively participating” in this thread because…

        …YES, I am offended – as is any and every other German on the www who’s been following along thusfar. We’re sick to death of people playing the Nazi card whenever anything German isn’t properly understood by the rest of the world. ESPECIALLY when there is absolutley no reason for it – as I feel in this particular case.

        Wes’s opinion in this matter is HIS opinion and he is of course entitled to it – whether he’s right or horribly, horribly wrong…But, in the interest of “keeping the peace” with HFL’s German followers, he should not be playing the Nazi card without expecting to offend us one and all.

        Being Americans, you and Wes don’t live here, speak our language or know anything at all about our culture or the way we think about things – or what we’ve had to endure for the past 50-60 or so years so how can you possibly proclaim to know anything at all about BMW’s ethical mindset…???

        I think several people here have very accurately presented you and Wes with the real reasons behind the artwork in question – but you’ve just been ingnoring it, refusing to admit that you were wrong. Which you are.

        With respect to my whole “General Lee” idea, you’ve also completely missed the point. Which was, fictional characters, vehicle and tv show or not, the so-called American “Rebel Flag” is has the same effect on the negro races of people as the WW2 Swastika flag has on, among others, the jewish people, yes…???

        So, how bad of a “marketing decision” was this tv show then? Or, bluntly, how hypocritical is it for you – and all Americans involved in this thread who agree with you – to get up on your soapbox and start slagging off BMW’s commisioned artwork as Nazi-inspired when it seems it’s perfectly ok for you to display the Rebel Flag as it pleases you – even on nationwide television. Do you honestly not see my point here…???

        It’s blatant double standards. And, unfortunately, it’s a typical American trait we Europeans know of far too well. And you and Wes aren’t doing anything to better your country’s international image with articles like this.

        Anyway, I’ve said enough about this topic now. Also, I feel that I’m wasting my time trying to help you to see my point of view…

        Think what you like, write what you like – i’s your “God-given right” to do so, as you people so often say…

        But, the next time you meet a European – and they roll their eyes and shake their head at you when you introduce yourself as an American – think back to articles like this one when you ask yourself why they don’t accept you.

        Let’s get back to the bikes,

        Eric H.

        • Matt

          Where do you get the idea that displays of the Confederate Flag don’t cause cries of outrage for a significant portion of Americans? Just because it hasn’t happened on HFL doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen amongst thinking Americans.

          I can appreciate why you take issue with this article: it’s a contentious issue and the connection that they are making sort of sounds like it’s coming from the perspective of someone who wants to be offended. It may be sort of weak, and judging by your reaction, culturally insensitive from a German perspective. However it’s not hypocritical.

          Does all criticism of someone have to include a nod to all of one’s own faults? Perhaps you would be happier if they said, “America exists because of the near-extermination of the indigenous people and forced labor of kidnapped African slaves; we have marginalized, at one point or another, every minority (even the Irish) to live within our borders and still won’t give homosexuals the right to marry in 46 states. That said, we find BMW’s newest advertising blah blah blah…” Would Grant and Wes not be hypocrites then?

          As an aside, when trying to make a point about how generalizations regarding one country are offensive, don’t follow it with a generalization about the country of the person you are lecturing.

        • Ammerlander

          “I meant the majority of those people who have repolied to this article. Go back and count how many people oppose Wes’s opinion and how many people agree with Wes….

          Let me save you some time – the majority of the replies thiusfar oppose his opinion…”

          Yes, I´ve read the comments, but people who are outraged are generally more likely to comment than the ones who are merely indifferent, so what the majority of readers think can not safely be concluded by looking at the comments.

          “”The HFL-guys think they look like Nazi Propaganda and wrote an article about that.
          Neither do I understand why you get so worked up about that…”

          I am German. That’s why.”

          You may elaborate on this further, as I still don´t get it.
          Also now you assume you´re speaking for all Germans and I know at least a couple of them who haven´t given you permission, so stop it.

          “Being Americans, you and Wes don’t live here, speak our language or know anything at all about our culture or the way we think about things – or what we’ve had to endure for the past 50-60 or so years…”

          Oh, yes, after starting and losing one of the most dreadful wars in the history of mankind with accompanied mass genocide that period of booming economy and surging quality of life in a democratic republic (I´m thinking of West Germany here) must have been hell. And then there are those jews always up in your grill about the whole holocaust thing. Yes, post war Germany really has had it rough.

          Regards,

          Ammerlander

  • http://www.anddesign.de Frank Gräfe

    This website is designed in black, white and red too …
    Adolf goes for web… oh Lord, help us!

  • American Idiot

    Ja ist denn schon April?

  • ollieboy

    I don’t really see the link with watching/not watching The Dukes of Hazzard.

    But..

    That’s another thing – by flagging a (supposed) design gaffe that HFL believe is extremely offensive to the Japanese HFL has managed to act extremely offensively towards the Germans (and possibly readers from several other European countries). D’oh.

    You guys been to Europe? Or Japan?

  • Telekom

    Grant said:
    “a+b+c=bad motorcycle advertising”

    Grant, I feel Wes and yourself have been unfairly criticised for producing this article. However, I think that the real problem with all of the debate about it is that readers are actually taking your comments to mean “BMW=Nazi”. Which clearly isn’t the case. “a+b+c=bad motorcycle advertising” isn’t at all the issue with this advert. It is a set of cultural cues which Wes rightly commented on as being insensitive from a German firm.

    The connotations of Japanese people being stupid, ungainly, slow etc from these pictures is simply blunt triumphalism of one nation over another – which isn’t so unusual – such things appear regularly in Hollywood films and in advertising.

    I think the problem with these images is not that they show actual Nazi iconography being used to promote a German product, but that combining certain aspects like the colour scheme and the negative portrayal of another culture through destructive stereotyping creates a very unwelcome atmosphere within the images.

    I studied fine art for 5 years and I found there were valid points made by Wes’ article in relation to the images. I am surprised at the number of people queueing up to hurl abusive comments at Wes and Grant. I would echo earlier comments – if you don’t like what you are reading, go somewhere else and read. IT’S A BLOG FFS. You should expect to find OPINIONS here.

    I like Triumph bikes, and would love to own one. Sometimes though, they go a bit far with the iconography of “Britishness”. I don’t really want to own things with the Union Jack on it. I’m Scottish for one thing. For another, the UJ is often used as a jingoistic symbol by the far right in the UK, especially the fascist BNP. I don’t want to associate with that. Also, the whole notion of wearing a flag is not something I really want to do – I’m Scottish by birth but I’m not nationalistic about it, nor am I nationalistic about being British. The UJ has the nickname “The Butcher’s Apron” because of the hideous atrocities carried out in numerous countries during the expansion of the British Empire under the flag of the Union. If Triumph brought out a bike or an ad campaign with a Union Jack and linked it to iconography of massacring Indian people or for that matter the bombing of Dresden, I would want nothing to do with it. I would denounce it, and would expect the company to apologise for the insensitivity. The same thing applies here: BMW should know better.

    The only comment I would make about Wes and Grant’s replies are that it wasn’t too wise to talk down to readers by implying no-one would “get” what they are saying. But that’s hardly a war crime, and after all W & G run this blog and they can say what they like within legal boundaries.

    HFL is an excellent blog and has replaced printed bike mags for me. I couldn’t stand the vast majority of the shit I had to read in Bike, Performance Bike, TWO etc.

    Without articles like this, and without the flurry of debate that has occurred, HFL would be a little less interesting. I really welcome this. I just hope people will have a sense of perspective about this, and if they don’t have that then go elsewhere.

    • Ammerlander

      Very well said, Telekom.

  • HistoricalView

    In some way I see the point Wes is making. I said, in some way since in my opinion he doesn’t oversee what burden is on the N word outside the USA. If you make a remark even hinting at the Nazis you must be damned sure of your case. For a lot of people jokes about German, Japanese and even the Nazis are tolerable, hinting at someone having Nazi sympathies is not. Maybe it is something which is seen very different in Europe, they felt the burden of the Nazis as occupiers and war criminals much, much heavier then the Americans as liberators of Europe did. For Americans the Nazis are the military adversaries they defeated (at great cost). For Europeans they are the ones that occupied their countries, gassed their Jews, executed their grandparents, killed or enslaved their minorities as ‘untermenschen” and murdered their freedom quite literally.

  • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

    Just a couple points to clarify with the above comments:

    1. We’re not calling anyone a Nazi. BMW is a very enlightened company that does a great job supporting minorities within its work force. Pointing out that a campaign inadvertently ticked the same subconscious boxes as Fascist propaganda did is not name calling, it’s criticism of a product.

    2. We’re not offended, this is criticism, not a call for a lynch mob.

    3. We don’t speak down to our readers. However, we will respond in kind when people are deliberately insulting, rude or similar.

  • Trav

    see.. what I think you guys miss.. is that these ads are targeted at people whole don’t know or care about what you see. “That’s bitchin’ that bike is gonna kick all those rice burners asses!”

    Maybe they’re going about getting into that culture the wrong way.. or maybe they don’t give a shit. Maybe they’re extremely intelligent to realize that most americans are fucking stupid, and think this shit is ‘ill’.

  • http://damiengaudet.com blankfocus

    i enjoyed the article and the insight.

  • M.P.

    Nice article Stretch Armstrong… =/
    If you continue to reply with the same come back does that eventually make it true HFL? Say, after the third time?

  • Silver Turtle

    Im a casual visitor to this site and i try to be open minded but sorry this article is a load of bs.

  • Jeff

    Of two thoughts:

    1. Every Honda RR engineer will have these up in their station next to the Shrine to Mr. Honda and the bust of Tadeo Baba. The next RR will be 44lb lighter, 20hp up and $3k cheaper than the BMW.

    or

    2. The rivalry is that of Hammer and Nail. BMW will abandon this project after 3 years and 3 total WSBK podiums.

  • Shukonak

    German bashing at its best

    wow, i am impressed. From a motorcycle thing to nazi.
    I must think about the “Godwin’s Law”.
    It just needs a german company, some wooly interpretations, and the germans are nazis again.

  • hg

    Vollkoffer!

    Bullshit