Ditch the cage, ride a Harley

Dailies -



Most sheeple live in a cage and they don’t even know it. Car payments, mortgage payments, fair trade coffee and v-neck sweaters. Well, they don’t even know it until you ride past and remind them. Your freedom is why they hate you (also, it’s your incredibly annoying loud pipes, but don’t think about that right now). This promises to be a brilliant ad from Harley.

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Clever message? Check. Creative idea? Check. High production values and eye-catching graphics? Check. Subverting the traditional brand image with cute, powerful creative? Check….oh wait, there it is, there’s the cheese rock, cheesier voice over and limp call to action.

Damnit Harley, if you’d just cut it at the guy rattling his cage this would have been brilliant, instead the juxtaposition of a message and ad that’s relevant to non-pot bellied pirates is lost the second you flip the switch on the whammie bar. Instead of making people think of your brand in a new way, this ad instead ends up reinforcing the lame wannabe badass image that the world outside Hardrock Cafe can see right through. Also, cutting from the real world to the virtual is exactly the reverse of what your brand should stand for, adding further plummet to the ending.

Harley, despite all your efforts to destroy it, you still have a powerful brand. The bike moving through traffic, the sound and maybe a logo at the end would have been enough.

And yes, all this effort to advertise the fact that you no longer need to pick up a catalog to pick out which tassels and tribal decals you want to add to your finance plan.

Thanks for the tip, Paul.

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    Holy jump-cut Batman!?

    Its like the ad company delivered the ad, some 65 yr old Harley exec looked at it, said, “Well..its missing something. Maybe, like, a big number 1. But, with an American Flag! And an eagle! And a guitar! Yeah!…yeah. Ok, make it happen.” “But sir, it airs in 6 days!” “Hey, you got them fancy computers. Make it happen!”


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

      Yessssss. That’s what happens when you show creative to the executives and they think they’re creative.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Yeah, the chances of that being EXACTLY what happened are 99.999%

    • miles_prower

      My thought exactly! (One of my companies does 100s of big-brand TV commercials a year — so I see this kind of thing happen all the time.)

    • Nick


    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

      A damn shame. I read the article up to the video, pressed play, and thought, “Wow, this is actually pretty gooooooooo! WHAT THE HELL.”

      I guarantee you’re right.

      • stempere

        Same here, even stopped a second to see details like the caged-bus stop sign thinking “wow, nice production”, my jaw oppened with the music and voice, and dropped with the crappy site demo…
        Too bad.

    • ike6116


  • steve

    Does it bother anyone else that this is exactly the same as the Kia Soul “hamster wheel” commercial from last year?


    • Nick

      Advertising is iterative

    • Michael

      Love the Kia commercials. The “Heavy” sock puppet commercial was genius. But hey, if you’re going to use an egregious, blatant ripoff like “How You Like Me Now” in your commercial you really can’t get all upset about someone ripping off your ads.

      H-D needs to hire Kia’s agency and then get the hell out of the way.

      The boyz on Hamsterdam Avenue know where it’s at.


      “Where’s the Black Sheep, here’s the Black Sheep
      Even if we wanted to the flock could not be weak
      Watch me swing like this, why should I swing it like that,
      Because in fact, on me it might not attract

      You can get with this, or you can get with that
      I think you’ll get with this yes, for this is kinda fat”

    • nick2ny

      Well, a motorcycle does make cars look like cages. A Kia Soul makes nothing look like a hamster wheel. What car could you possibly rent and be psyched to find out that they are giving you a Soul instead?

    • Chris

      That’s true, and when ask yourself “you can get with this, or you can get with that” and that is a toaster, the choice is pretty clear..

  • ike6116

    Do you think anyone at Harley has ever understood the “Less is more” philosophy?

    I mean besides when we’re talking about features or R&D.

    • Barry

      It’s hard to sell you extra chrome for “less”.

    • Ceolwulf

      Of course, they understand it perfectly.

      Less mufflers = more noise.

      • ike6116

        so true.

  • Nick

    I don’t think this is a very clever commercial, even before the cheese-meter is broken. It was way too long for the simple message. I wouldn’t have watched the whole thing if the last 10 seconds weren’t brought to my attention previously. And yes, I’m trying real real hard not to think about the loud pipes thing, but that may have had a slight impact on my opinion. That guy on the harley is the reason I don’t put aftermarket exhausts on my toys.

    • Grive

      My big question is… was it absolutely necessary for the rider to cut off that poor cager in a volvo at 0:40-0:45? Both lanes were pretty much clear.

      Maybe that and the loud pipes thing are trying to say something

      • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

        Ha, I thought that, too. “That was an unnecessarily dickish pass.” Then, I realized it was a Harley ad and waited for the guitars.

  • carter

    Executives’ exaggerated sense of the importance of web-site traffic is the root of a lot of sorely misguided marketing. Here a Big Idea message (free yourself) is being used to serve an incongruent Small Idea (check out this gizmo on our website), so it feels like a bait-and-switch. Nick is right, too: it’s too long.

    And if the HD execs were more savvy, they’d realize the only motorcycle web-site that matters is HFL.

  • Deltablues

    Wow! They ended that video with a shot of a black man in a cage.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Yeah, I wasn’t even going to go there.

      • Kirill

        I’m not sure there’s anywhere to go, he just happens to be the last pedestrian they showed before the bike showed up and the idea is that he realizes “hey, this sucks, I want to be that guy on the bike!” Him being black is irrelevant

        • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

          No, you need to read between the lines on this one. It’s obvious.

        • slowtire

          I think you’re right, it ‘s irrelevent.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

      Affirmative action wins again!

    • robotribe

      Harley’s airing all kinds of their personal truths with this one.

      First BMW unintentionally shows riders thrown off their bikes, now this.

      Who’s next? Does stupid happen in “threes” with motorcycle marketing?

  • stephan

    i kinda like v-necks. there i said it.

    • Kevin


  • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

    Too bad none of those customizable options include suspension that works and “lightness”.

    I’d be lying if I said, I didn’t miss my old Sportster. I don’t miss it’s 1.5″ of suspension travel and forks that bottomed out at the sight of an expansion joint.

    • bluegrass

      its a shame the only sportster you can get now with any suspension travel at all is the xr1200

  • gaudette

    what a fag

  • Chris

    Man, Harley, why can’t I customize an XR750?

  • Peter88

    Alright kids. One of the reasons I enjoy this site is because I get the viewpoint of the next generation (or the one after that). I agree that Harley should have cut the comercial before the HD1 portion but damn, that is a great ad. I’m going back to my AARP magazine now.

  • Ilya

    This ad won’t work simply because people don’t feel caged these days.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/1962_cb77_restore/ Scott Pargett

    Another $40,000+ in debt on top of the house, cars, and kid’s college funds is quite how I’d define freedom for the man Harley’s selling to.

    • nick2ny

      I know–to me freedom is a $2200 sv650 or dirtbike, and a riding buddy with the same. I’d prefer the bikes not be customized.

  • Jonathan

    I thought it was irritating as hell. Just more of the tired “us vs. them” cliche. They have to work hard at trying to dispel the gay pirate image- but talk about brand suicide. Some of the sporties are actually cool. However, the biggest barrier to entry is not “sheeple in cages”, it’s the f*kwit losers that ride them. The industry is hemmoraging new blood- what they really need is a welcoming campaign like the iconic “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” ads.

  • Joel

    why wasn’t the little dog in a little cage? Can you customize those too? Maybe I don’t get the add

    • Steven

      why wasn’t the little dog in a little cage?

      Steven likes this comment.

  • Markus

    I don’t feel like I’m in a cage when I go for a walk… They should have stuck with people in cars.

    • Master of Disaster

      Exactly. Isn’t the metaphore a bit lost with the people jogging in cages?