Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Harley's Old "Live By It" Ad Was Also Pretty Bad

After my blog on the new Harley Davidson "No Cages" advertisement, I just happened to be browsing a few older Harley Ads on Youtube, and came across this one "Live By It"


Harley Davidson - Live By It

1 We believe in going our own way no matter which way the rest of the world is going.
2 We believe in bucking the system that is built to smash individuals like bugs on a windshield.
3 Some of us believe in the man upstairs, all of us believe in sticking it to the man down here.
4 We believe in the sky and we don't believe in the sun roof.
5 We believe in freedom.
6 We believe in dust, tumble weeds, buffalo, mountain ranges and riding off into the sunset.
7 We believe in saddle bags and we believe that cowboys had it right.
8 We believe in refusing to knuckle under to anyone.
9 We believe in wearing black because it doesn't show any dirt or weakness.
10 We believe the world is going soft and we're not going along with it.
11 We believe in motorcycle rallys that last a week.
12 We believe in roadside attractions, gas station hot dogs and finding out whats over the next hill.
13 We believe in rumbling engines, pistons the size of garbage cans, fuel tanks designed in 1936, freight train sized head lights, chrome and custom paint.
14 We believe in flames and skulls.
15 We believe life is what you make it and we make it one hell of a ride.
16 We believe the machine you sit on can tell the world exactly where you stand.
17 We don't care what everyone else believes.
18 Amen.

So it seems to me this new "no cages" ad is actually an improvement over the older "Live By it Ad", which because of it's self important tone is great anti-Harley joke material and is probably embarrassing to most Harley owners. Anyway, here is what I see wrong with this ad, line by line. But especially line 16.

1. Nothing wrong with the first line, probably should have stopped the ad here, but noooooo.
2. This line would be great if it was still 1968. But it isn't, and people who believe this usually didn't buy Harleys anyway. Most Harley customers today consider themselves patriots, not system buckers. Keep up with your customer base!
3. This line about the "man upstairs" is the only line that wimps out from "We believe" to "Some of us believe". The "Stickin it to the man" comment is another 60's misfire, for the same reason as the previous line.
4. Fact: Many Harley riders own pickup trucks, and so "not believing in sunroofs" seems to imply more about the how they order their four wheel vehicles than it does about their choice of a two-wheel lifestyle.
5. This might as well be "We believe in Apple Pie" except that apple pie was a Canadian invention.
6. "Buffalo"? Ever tried to ride a motorcycle in a buffalo herd?
7. "Cowboys had it right"? Weren't they the ones who killed off the buffalo? (see line 6)
9. Wearing black has proven to be more dangerous on the road. But I agree, it does not show dirt. Not black dirt, anyway. However, believing that any other colour shows weakness? Come on.
10. "The world going soft", could refer to the disappearance of kick starters. But Harley went soft along with almost every other motorcycle at least thirty years ago.
11. This is just funny. We like rallies that last a week, apparently we don't believe in rallies that last 6 days or 8 days, though.

I won't go after every line, but I must comment on how line 16 conflicts with the theme of the ad.

16. "The machine you sit on can tell the world exactly where you stand" is the worst line of the ad, why? Because it cancels out the main idea of the ad. To me, "Live by it" means "how you live" is supposed to tell the world where you stand, not the stuff you buy.

I guess it's not surprising that Harley dumped their old ad agency. Even though the "no cages" ad was not that great, the "Live by it" was really embarrassing. Message to the Harley Davidson Motor Company: "Next time you decide to run an ad, prescreen it with "The Lost Motorcyclist". First consultation will be free.


  1. I had not seen that particular ad but, as you say, it was just a tad overdone. By the end, I was starting to look for an insulin fix.

    If one steps back from the scene just a bit, doesn't it seem like there's a large degree of conformity among that bunch of riders and the faith statements - variations on the same theme, but within very narrow limits.

    So much for 'freedom' and 'refusing to knuckle under' and 'not caring what anyone else thinks.' One can't wondering what statistics the ad agency was designing on the basis of ... did they really think the lion's share of new Harley buyers really are posers?

  2. And I think it's totaly fine. And yes my machine (harley) tells the world where I stand. If you don't get it - it doesnt make sense to explain it to you. You aren't a real harley biker

    1. You have guessed correctly, sir. I am not a real Harley biker, whether I am a wannabe Harley biker is a matter of opinion. I wrote "Why I have a Kawasaki not a Harley" Sept 30, 2009 to explain that point.

      On April 11, 2013 I wrote a blog discussing what a "real" Harley biker was, titled "Of Harley Riders and Helmets".

      In a recent news event, I must compliment the real Harley bikers, because not one bike in the Hollywood Stuntz ride was a Harley.

    2. I don't completely agree with your view point on the ad. Yep...it's overdone. Yep...it has it's low points. But it does catch your attention...and in world where people are striving to find an identity, to be heard, to be acknowledged, to be seen in spite of the crowd...this ad strikes a chord. For sure it won't do anything to an individual who isn't into motorcycles in the first place...but to motorcycle enthusiasts, it hits home. Motorcyclists themselves are separated into so many classifications...the speed demons, the weekend warriors, the stunt bikers. I live in India...and everyone I've shown this to...without exception...were left with the sense of "oh yeah..."

    3. Living in India? Coincidentally that's where Harley Davidson will be building its new Street 500 and 750. Maybe Harley Davidson understands the Indian motorcycle culture, which I think is very different from the Canadian culture. But two differences I can think of right away. 1. Indians use their motorcycles as practical transport year round, not possible here. 2. I have read that Indians care about fuel economy of their motorcycle, but most Canadian motorcyclists do not know or care about the fuel efficiency of their bike.

      It's quite possible that, in India, the ideas in this ad are fresher and more appealing than they are in Canada.

  3. Coincidently it was Canadians who first switched me on to Harleys and Corvettes...way back in the early '80s. And what they endorsed were the very attributes of this ad. I spent some of my best years working with Okanagan Helicopters out of Vancouver...and the people I worked with were down to earth,
    good ole boys who said things like 'ouooot' and 'abouoot'. It took me 27 years to finally get my own softail...the 'vette is work in progress :). Still not sure if I complete agree with your critique. Most true blooded "harley" types I meet...whether here or in your part of the world...still have a different "twinkle" in their eye. This IS a cult more than it is a brand or a product. Indian Motorcycles would fall under the same differentiation methinks.

    1. To say I am not a member of the biker cult is the main reason I am careful to user "Motorcyclist" in the title of my blog. But honestly I can't remember ever meeting anyone on a Harley or any other bike, who I think is a cultist.

  4. Seems like someone has a hard-on for HD's. You don't like'em, don't ride'em.

    1. I just thought that the advertising would appeal to more motorcyclists if they would run it by me first.