Advertising Agency Of 31 years Dumps Harley-Davidson

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.

29 Responses to “Advertising Agency Of 31 years Dumps Harley-Davidson”

  1. 1 Seymour Sep 1st, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Wow. I can’t imagine.

  2. 2 Dave H Sep 1st, 2010 at 10:19 am

    “Screw it, Let’s Ride” was a good slogan.

    But if they also came up with the one HOG uses, “Ride and Have Fun”, it’s time to move on. That one is so gay. No wonder real riders are saying HOG has become a married people social club. It’s become downright boring with stuff like that.

  3. 3 pooper Sep 1st, 2010 at 11:45 am

    “Screw it, Let’s Ride” was STOLEN from Dice magazine.. They ran out of ideas.

  4. 4 Fab Kevin Sep 1st, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I can’t believe HD stuck with that agency for all this time. They must have the most boring ads of any motorcycle mfgr – it’s time for some fresh ideas!

  5. 5 just my opinion Sep 1st, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I can’t imagine any advertising company dumping a client that brings 11 million a year into the business.
    Makes me wonder if there is more to this than we are hearing,

  6. 6 Jeff Nicklus Sep 1st, 2010 at 12:15 pm



    Over & Out,


  7. 7 ian Sep 1st, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Maybe the agency picked up a new motorcycle client and dropped them through conflict – having said that agree with comments above the work was pretty average

  8. 8 fuji Sep 1st, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Rumor has it that they wanted to run a new ad.

    The downfall. Lets mount and push this pork for a beer. LOL

  9. 9 just my opinion Sep 1st, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Jeff; I was trying to not be anti HD by not stating the obvious. Wonder if there is an auction in the near future?

  10. 10 Jeff Nicklus Sep 1st, 2010 at 2:46 pm



    Maybe their new ad agency can come up with something novel and creative like say …. Stick some hot babes on a bike, take a picture, throw it in a magazine somewhere and the sales will roll in. Oh hell, never mind that is what they have done for the last 25 years! Never mind updating the product line …. nah, that would never work either. Maybe they should move the company to India …. nah they have already thought of that one. Sorry I am out of ideas!

    Over & Out,


  11. 11 Woody Sep 1st, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    What agency does Kool-Aid ads? Just a thought 😉

  12. 12 Robin Sep 1st, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    If you would like some insight about this action from the advertising world you can read an article posted on Advertising Age entitled “Why Carmichael Lynch Resigned Harley After 31 Years.” Read the comments as well for additional engaging input. Ad Age shifts its content to a pay per view system after a short period of time being freely available so if you’re interested don’t wait too long. Go to:

  13. 13 jim Sep 2nd, 2010 at 6:58 am

    i always thought “screw it, let’s ride” was a very poor (terrible) slogan for such an iconic institution…

  14. 14 fuji Sep 2nd, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Maybe they need to contact the Aflac people being that they cater to the old basterds like me.

  15. 15 Sam Sep 2nd, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Screw It, Lets Do It by Sir Richard Branson

  16. 16 Alan Leger Sep 2nd, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Hell, most H-D Dealers are now more than glorified JC Penny stores. The company is definitely on board with the politically correct B.S. These days most of the people buying Harley-Davidsons are morons & they do so ONLY because it is a social thing to do. It is laughable the company even dares to use the term “bikers” in it’s ads. They might want to hook up with the ad agency that does the Pillsbury dough boy commercials. You know dress the happy face dough boy in black leathers……..

  17. 17 Betty Sep 2nd, 2010 at 10:25 am

    LOL … Alan you made me snort … I suppose they do seem to be catering to the mid-life-crisis crowd more and more these days. However, my work in the industry leads me to believe that’s a decent way for them to make a few bucks.

  18. 18 cwglide Sep 2nd, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I like their ad’s they been doing in the past few years. They were so PC before. After all they are a major corporation that has investors to answer to, and having gobal exposure i wonder what will be next. I did notice more sponsorship then before, Outlaw Sprint, UFC. Yeah they got to have a piece of the social media to advertize, Twitter, FB, Yahoo.

  19. 19 Bigal Sep 2nd, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    One might have thought they did all their Advertising in House. They spent all their Budget Allowance on Attorney’s. They were out Chasing every and any Patent Violation or Copyright laws!

  20. 20 J Sep 2nd, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    LOL- good one, Jeff- nah, they still have another play left- they can paint their bikes even blacker- a blacker shade of black, even- the Harley “Black Hole” collection can’t be far off……. R&D will be working overtime on it…..

  21. 21 Jeff Nicklus Sep 2nd, 2010 at 2:43 pm


    LOL! That is funny you should mention the “Black” paint …. our first couple of years in business we only offered three colors on our bikes: Black, Very Black and Real Black! I can’t begin to tell you how many people either asked me what the differance was between the colors OR most just outright said “Oh, for sure I want the Real Black! ” God love em!

    Over & Out,


  22. 22 deadwood1783 Sep 2nd, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Could it be that since HD has always been so cheap on their advertising that the advertising company just didn’t want to be associated with the low budget stuff the client (HD) wanted. Ask any Company which has ever done business with HD just how hard they are to do business with. Plus Keith Wandell is an operations guy, not a marketing guy. Isn’t it ironic how CocaCola and Budweiser, two of the most recognizeable brands in the world ARE also huge advertisers. I guess they do so much marketing because it doesn’t work…lol…

  23. 23 Little Joe Sep 2nd, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Betty’s on to something, but HD is singing to a shrinking and older demographic. Young kids coming up won’t even look at a Harley. HD has nothing to offer them; they want ‘Busas and other rocket ships. Too bad.

  24. 24 Genevieve Schmitt Sep 2nd, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I was interviewed today by the business reporter from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel doing a story on this topic… with the reporter advancing the story on how Harley is spending more time and money in the social media space. Look for the article online this Sunday at JSonline.comm.

  25. 25 DLP Sep 2nd, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Screw them (the ad agency); we’ll still ride Harleys. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not about clever (or banal) slogans. Perhaps it’s about the bikes and the people who ride them. I sure hope so. And nobody interviewed about this.

  26. 26 gravey158 Sep 4th, 2010 at 8:49 am

    i started riding because of the poeple who rode not because of ads in any mag.etc. I still ride and now detail them for fun and profit. iagree with what DLP. has to say. that thing about HOG is so true, i was a menber many yrs ago. iquit because it was not a “Biker” club, what did they know about being “BIKERS”, they still don,t

  27. 27 Flipte Sep 9th, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Harley’s brand is:


    …stateside. They just pray a shallow form “Classic Americana” is still big overseas to sell the facade over there. Our American past can be slanted to be so romantic, warm and noble…and marketable. Those consumers over there don’t hear the current brand criticism that we endemics wallow in over here. Therefore, the MoCo cares little about what we domestic endemics think. They will invest less in managing our reputation with us anymore. The new target consumer know only the beautiful imagery that H-D will deliver to these non-purist consumers who also buy Converse or Levi’s for the same reason. Watch and see.

  28. 28 Joe Mama Jan 26th, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Their new ad agency is much worse. Just saw the advertising for the new “Blackline” bike and they show a beautiful blonde on the back behind a jigaboo. Disgusting!

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