As the ad above shows, Harley-Davidson is bold and ballsy in declaring its commitment to diversity. Yet when the motorcycle company needed marketing help, Advertising Age reported they rode off with agencies where exclusivity rules the road. Now that’s full-throttle hypocrisy.
Harley Davidson Taps Three New Agencies
Starcom, Digitas and Victors & Spoils Will All Work on Iconic Motorcycle Marketer’s Account
By Michael Bush
NEW YORK -- Months after parting ways with Carmichael Lynch—its agency of three decades—motorcycle marketer Harley Davidson has picked a trio of new shops to handle its $11 million account, according to several industry executives.
The company is giving U.S. planning and buying duties to Publicis Groupe’s Starcom after a shootout against other shops, executives said, and has tapped Starcom sibling Digitas for digital work. And though Harley insisted it would not name a new creative agency when it split from Carmichael Lynch, it now has designated a new shop to help it with creative ideas: Victors & Spoils.
These agencies either could not be immediately reached or referred calls to Harley. A spokesman for the marketer said, “We have nothing official to announce at this point and don’t comment on rumors.”
The agencies will replace Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned Carmichael Lynch, which had served as Harley Davidson’s creative agency of record for the past 30 years and handled media as well. That relationship ended this August when, in a bit of role reversal, Harley Davidson was dumped by Carmichael Lynch. At the time of the split, agency President Doug Spong told Ad Age, “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, had said of the breakup: “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, CL chose a different path, and we respect that.”
The company had also said it was not going to initiate a search for a new creative shop but would continue to work with a number of roster shops including VSA Partners in Chicago and McCann Erickson in the U.K.
That was before Boulder-based newcomer Victors & Spoils, announced on its blog in September that it had put out a brief to its crowd of creatives to come up with ideas for the Harley brand. It was a risky move that appears to have paid off, given it led to V&S being named to Harley’s agency roster.
For Starcom, the win is the third in the span of a month. After flying below the radar for nearly a year, Starcom has been making headlines on a consistent basis for the past couple of weeks with some high-profile new business wins and executive moves. Earlier this month, the agency won Darden Restaurants’ Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse media accounts, totaling nearly $300 million, and Best Buy consolidated its nearly $300 million media planning and buying account with the agency.
On the executive front, the shop named Chris Boothe, previously a president at Starcom, its new chief operating officer. Mike Rosen, who previously oversaw the GM business, was named president-director of activation and will oversee the ad spending of all clients. The agency replaced Mr. Rosen on the GM business with Jon Stimmel, a former Unilever executive who currently works on the Kraft Foods business at Starcom sibling shop MediaVest.
Contributing: Rupal Parekh, Kunur Patel