For having worked with international advertising agencies (and mine) for blue chip compaies during more than25 years, I can tell you that it is extremely rare that an agency fires one of its most prestigious clients. Since yesterday the ad world is buzzing with the decision of Carmichael Lynch (an Interpublic Group agency) to dump Harley-Davidson after 31 years of collaboration. Carmichael Lynch president, Doug Spong, had this to say: “You can’t be in a relationship for 31 years and not have some differences. We’re very grateful for such a long and glorious time together, but we just feel like we’ve taken that brand as far as we can go.”
Mark-Hans Richer, Harley’s chief marketing officer since 2007, stated “We’ve had a good run with Carmichael Lynch over the past 31 years but as our brand has grown globally and with new, broader audiences and cultural opportunities, we’ve been working for some time with a more diverse group of agency partners,””He added: Our strategies have been moving away from a singular consumer target and a one-size-fits-all agency solution. Rather than accept this new reality, Carmichael Lynch chose a different path and we respect that.
Harley-Davidson always had a low advertising budget for a company of its size. Harley-Davidson spent only $11 million in measured media in 2009, and less than $5 million for the first six months of this year. The last campaign of Carmichael Lynch was “Screwed It, Let’s Ride” with banners appearing in my Blog during all this 1st semester. Harley-Davidson said it will not conduct an agency review process or look to replace Carmichael Lynch because it has shifted to using more consulting agencies for its marketing, each working on different targets, abandoning traditional medias like print magazines, and pushing segmented communication with heavy use of banners and videos in Blogs, on YouTube, networking via Social Networks (Dacebook & Twitter) and organizing targeted promotional events.