MotoCorsa Portland Show Us How to Sell Ducatis

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When I sold my last motorbike, I almost cried as its new owner rode into the cold, afternoon sun. Ever since I started riding as a teenager, I had dreamed of owning a Ducati – and here I was, many years on, relinquishing my much-loved Ducati Monster. But once you have owned one Ducati, it’s in your blood.

As a result, I am constantly on the look out for my next (future) bike. Now, this may never eventuate – but most men live under the constant and unyielding delusion that hope springs eternal, and that the old man staring at them in the mirror is some alien imposter. Old Spice got it right – in our mind’s eye, we all look like Isaiah Mustafa. And in my mind, Ducati is the bike that brings that imaginary world to life.

But the marketing of motorcycles is a relatively unadventurous sport. It largely revolves around the big philosophic binaries – sex and death. On the one hand, we know that motorcycling is dangerous, but the experience pushes us closer to the edge of some other form of being. It’s that futurist convergence of man and machine and all the libidinous energy that it can muster. It creates a gravitational pull that draws us in. And motorcycle advertisers play this for all it is worth.

The end result is that what was once James Dean-level thrilling, is now formulaic, with as little as three key narratives played out over and over across any and all brands:

  • The outlaw: you may be have an honest, humble day job, but the moment you throw your leg over your bike, you’ve left that world behind. It’s you, your bike and the open road. And the only thing between you and the future is the aura of danger that emanates from every pore
  • The master blaster: they say that speed kills, but that’s only for novices. What a bike needs is a master – a MotoGP pilot – and under your firm hand, it’s all under control
  • The rear view mirror: motorcycles were part of your youth. But there’s part of your soul that has never changed. And you can recapture that spirit of adventure – in a modern, more comfortable way. [Side note: I’m selling myself in on this narrative alone.]

The visuals for each of these narratives similarly run to a formula. Edgy typography. Short copy. Aggressive, angled photography laced with scantily clad women.

As a result, there is very little that catches my attention. Sure there may be different bikes, different angles – and even different girls. But we’ve seen it all before.

Or have we.

In support of the release of the new Ducati 1199 Panigale, Portland-based Ducati dealer, MotoCorsa decided to mix it up. They started out with the standard girl-on-a-bike. But then they followed it up with another series. This time, the model, Kylie Shea Lewallen, was gone. And in her place was a series of MotoCorsa workshop blokes, striking the same poses with the same great motorbikes.

Brilliant. Fun. And just check out the calves on the guy in heels. Check out the full photoshoot comparison at ashphaltandrubber.com – but be warned, there can be some things that cannot be unseen.

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Advertising in 2020 – Let’s Hope There’s Fire

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John Willshire and Mark Earls make you think. They chisel and shape ideas until they are sharp enough to be carved into your mind.

As part of the Wharton Future of Advertising program, they put together this presentation that provokes a conversation around advertising and what it might look like in the year ahead. Take a look through, it’s quick and it will challenge you. Then read on below …

One of the things that caught my attention was a simple statement. “Make things people want [is greater than] Make people want things”.

This seems to be self-evident, but in practice it requires an alternative way of thinking. Almost all of our marketing theory and practice centres on the stimulation of desire. We deliberately create items, objects and experiences that are limited in their availability and then we amplify not only the fact of existence, but the fact of their scarcity.

And yet, we live in an age of abundance. We all know it. Yet we still play out this game of scarcity. I find it interesting. I find it fascinating that we are complicit in this form of cultural production that we call advertising. But I also predict a seachange ahead.

We are going to have to work a whole lot harder to generate the kind of engagement and interest that advertising once commanded. Our connected consumers have outflanked, outranked and even out-performed us. Mark and John are right. We will need marketing and advertising that is bolder than we have been in decades. And decidedly more primal. We’ll need to relinquish the calculator and the paperclip and step out from behind the mirrored glass and meet our customers face to face.

Big data may hold the answers – but we’re far from understanding the most basic of questions. Mark and John have lit a signal fire but it’s not off in the distance. Look down, it’s right under our arses.

I Love Dick

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On Australia Day a wave of patriotism spreads across the nation like vegemite on hot, buttered toast. Australian flags appear on cars and clothes. Australian songs dominate the airwaves (or should I say the playlists) and we celebrate one exemplary individual as Australian of the Year (yes, I know, it’s likely to be a sports “hero” again).

On Australia Day, it’s a celebration of Australian-ness in all it’s gory beauty. It’s a celebration of shared values with more than a touch of larrikin humour.

But sometimes what we THINK of as Australian is less than true blue. Vegemite is one. But there are many others.

Dick Smith’s products have always called this out. In the 80s he was famous for “Dick jokes” – using his name to send a nod and a wink to the mums and dads at home in TV land while cleverly entrenching himself as “one of us”. After all, he was using that great Australian value – Larrikin humour – to differentiate himself from everyone else. You’d hardly imagine Tandy Electronics using the tag line “electronic dick” in their advertising, would you?

But Dick Smith’s latest campaign for his home grown products has sailed into troubled waters.  Falling foul of regulators, the 60 second spot received a PG rather than G rating. This means that the ad can’t be shown in the peak slots around the 6pm news bulletins.

Take a look at the ad. While times have changed and we are certainly a more conservative nation than we once were, it’s not a patch on the ads that used to run when I was a kid. And it’s almost un-Australian to not like a dick joke.

I don’t know about you, but I love Dick.


My Kinda Sport: Puma After Hours Athlete

What does it mean when we say that a brand “gets it”? I don’t necessarily mean in relation to social media – but in general? It means that we have reached an intuitive accord – that our values align. That there has been some form of exchange – I’ve been delighted unexpectedly by a purchase, surprised by the sales process, charmed by the account team.

In the world of advertising, we don’t see enough of this. It’s why the good work stands out so far. And while we should see more of it in social media, in reality it’s still rare. I think, in part, because we are still feeling our way – tentatively looking at the envelope rather than pushing it around.

But here’s something I like. It’s not necessarily social – but it tells the story of being social. Perhaps it’s the start of a story yet to unfold.

This ad (HT to Sean Howard), from Puma and Droga5 reminds us that sometimes, simply being social is the most challenging feat of athleticism many of us are likely to experience. Do we need special gear for that? It seems we do.

Calling All Marketers — Inspiraton, Anyone?

InspirationAnyone Following up from the Microsoft teaser, the full-length video is now available.

With the first instalment in this series entitled The Breakup, the intention was to raise debate. Microsoft boldly tackled the issue around the shifting nature of the consumer-advertiser relationship, and invited marketers into the conversation. It certainly was not the type of communication or advertising I expected from Microsoft — and it did capture a lot of attention at the time of launch.

But with this sequel there is a wholly different challenge. Geert Desager and Kris Hoet are clearly taking another step — to facilitate the establishment of a marketing community (moving from conversation to action?). In the process, they are taking a sweep at brands, agencies and all the folks who inhabit them. There are some great lines, including “I tried to look up that Web 2.0 thing you told be about, I just couldn’t find the exact URL”. Let’s face it both agencies and marketers are easy targets (and we provide so much fodder) … so you are bound to raise a chuckle or two.

However, if you do want to move beyond the banter, the site Get Inspired Here is the place you can go. Over the coming weeks (and in the wake of Cannes), there is bound to be plenty of discussion, taunting and maybe even a little creativity. Get your full feed here. Hopefully there are more surprises in store!