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A bike company has finally made an ad that competes with the auto industry

Posted by on May 2nd, 2016 at 10:55 am

Love the symbolism of leaving the car in the driveway.(Screengrab from Stromer)

The star of the ad leaves his car in the driveway.
(Screengrab from Stromer)

Biking in America suffers from a major image problem. Bike riders are rarely seen as cool, conquering heros in movies or advertisements the way auto users are. While we do our activism and political lobbying here and there, it has very limited impact when our entire culture is consumed by media that makes automobiles look like sexy, must-have products.

Many car commercials are fake, mean-spirited, and promote dangerous driving; but with billions of dollars to spend, the auto industry knows how to win the hearts and minds of Americans. The bike industry? Not so much. More often than not bike advertisements focus too much on racing or too much on the corny stuff bike advocates love but that non-believers (an important marketing target) can’t relate to or simply don’t care about. Granted, the marketing budget of the entire bike industry is probably equal to what Ford spends on office coffee for a week. But still.

Then I saw a new ad for Stromer bikes over the weekend….

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What really caught my eye was how the Stromer marketing folks blatantly copied one of the most persuasive car commercials running today: the Matthew McConaughey/Lincoln MKC spots (directed by non other than Portland resident Gus Van Sant). Notice how the music, the look, the feel, even several scenes of the Stromer ad above mimic the Lincoln ad below. Notice the droning piano, the handsome, confident, and wealthy star getting ready for work, the reach for the key (that he passes over for his phone), and so on…

Stromer is doing exactly what Lincoln (and other carmakers) are doing: Selling the bike — not as a health and fitness tool or a way to “be green” — but as a device that makes you look cool and just so happens to get you from A-to-B in luxurious style. And by device, I mean an electronic gadget like a smartphone. In the face of an age where people are more and more consumed by their devices, the auto industry has smartly begun to position cars as high-tech nodes with all the bells, whistles, and comforts of an iPhone. And now Stromer is doing the same in this ad for their premium ST2 model.

It should be noted that Stromer is an e-bike company. This ad makes me wonder how the high-tech aspect of e-bikes is a major marketing asset that will make them more influential with mainstream (non-bike believing) audiences.

And did you notice how, in another jab to automakers, Stromer’s tagline is “The Swiss driving experience.” That echoes BMW’s “The ultimate driving experience.” Not only that, but by using the verb “driving” instead of “riding” Stromer is challenging people’s perception of cycling in a fundamental way. It reminded me of the legendary Miller beer ad by Errol Morris (that I also called the “best commercial ever made” when it debuted in 2007).

It’s not perfect, but this Stromer commercial could be a game-changer. If only they had a few million dollars to plaster it all over the airwaves during prime-time sporting events.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Mike Sanders
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Mike Sanders

Great stuff. When I watch YouTube on my iPad, I now have to sit thru commercials. Quite often, they’re car ads. I don’t own a car, so I don’t like that much. These guys have hit a home run. My suggestion: when the cyclist turns off the main street, he might follow an off-road trail instead of a side street. I agree. These ads should run during the Tour de France this year. That would get noticed!

Anne Hawley
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Anne Hawley

Wow. I wonder if there will be a Stromer to try out at the eBike Expo. It looks fabulous.

Riley
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Riley

As the article points out, automobile advertising painstakingly avoids the realities of automobile ownership and operation in favor of rather juvenile fantasies. In fact even real cars are getting in the way of those fantasies — observe the increasing use of computer generated simulations of cars…

One can but wonder what our world would look like if bicycling, and perhaps even public transportation, were to switch advertising budgets with the automakers for, say, five or so years…

Paul H.
Guest
Paul H.

Version 2.0 could include the cyclist riding freely in a bike lane, passing all the cars stuck in traffic.

Eric Leifsdad
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Eric Leifsdad

Needs to show more stopped traffic. Lots of scenes where he’s keeping up with traffic, but mostly empty streets. Not sure if the smartphone nonsense is enticing. Stopping for a sit-down coffee, getting the girl’s number, and still beating the traffic to work, maybe.

He turns right from the center lane (nearly in front of a car) at 1:15 — get your right-hook on?

Why is he wearing a helmet? Where’s the rack? At least it has fenders.

Props for selling it as transportation. It’s probably hard to imagine e-bikes as status quo, but more so for consumers than ad agencies?

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

The actor is a little goofy looking and has a strange smile that is most definitely not cool looking. Then they missed by having the woman look approvingly at the bike instead of at him (or even at his rear end). I’m sure they’ll get better at emulating the horrid car commercials with time, but they haven’t quite gotten it yet.

9watts
Subscriber

I don’t know. I get the inversion that you’re enjoying, but the fact of the matter is we’re still stuck in the world of wealth, status, consumer desire, expensive gadgets. And he already has a car that he can afford to pass over….

Tyler Texas
Guest
Tyler Texas

Nice ad. Nice bike too (not cheap).

I don’t watch TV much so I don’t see car ads. I used to watch more TV years ago.

I’ve owned several bikes and cars over the years. I did not base the decision to purchase any of them based on a commercial. I suspect the vast majority of car or bike owners do not base the decision to buy one on a commercial – for most, I suspect commercials have no impact of any kind on their buying decisions. When we are driving we get to see what the car manufacturer’s are offering on the road in real life. That’s the advertising that sells cars. The bike commercial would, I suspect, cause some wealthier folks to run down and spend 4K to 10K on a Stromer bike – then it would probably sit in the garage and collect dust. So, wait until they’ve been on sale for 5 or 6 years and watch craigslist, ebay, etc for a cheap Stromer with low miles that’s been owned by a little old lady who kept it in the garage. 😉

Al Dimond
Guest

Those Lincoln ads have never worked for me on any level. They make me question or even laugh at the protagonist, not idealize him. And, proving that it’s not just because I’m a bike guy, this Stromer ad makes me feel the same.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Ironically, he works at Hyundai Motor Finance, so you’ll find him when you give up and lease one.

By passing up on that BMW i3, this gentleman is what they call a “choice” commuter. Pretty safe bet he also has a Vespa, which does the same things at the same price, except it seats two with a lot more flair.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

“but as a device that makes you look cool and just so happens to get you from A-to-B in luxurious style. And by device, I mean an electronic gadget like a smartphone.”

I recall hearing a radio interview recently with an auto manufacturer rep. during one of the big auto shows (likely the Detroit one) and he said that that integration with the cell phone and mobile computing is “the most” important features that buyers are currently looking for. And then went on to loosely describe how they are planning on innovating the tech and the dashboard to implement such features.

Generally, I think the bicycle industry is a little clueless about where the future growth of the industry is which isn’t racing but commuting. Which unfortunately trickles down to the riders as well. On the whole, the ads and articles are still very race specific – even when discussing commuting or utilitarian cycling. Some of the smaller manufacturers and news places “get it”, but the big boys in both industries are still very entwined with the bicycle racing culture. Interestingly enough, the fashion industry appears to have a clearer vision in this changing tide of bicycle use than the US bicycle industry does.

BikeRound
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BikeRound

I would strongly urge Bikeportland.com to adopt an editorial policy against using words like bullshit in its blog postings. The problem is not that we are not adults and that our moral universe is going to collapse upon seeing such words. The problem is that the articles quickly deteriorate into vacuous emotionalism when the author is not forced to select the appropriate adjective to describe the situation at hand. Curse words engage the emotional sides of our brains, which is not a good thing when the setting of good public policy requires unemotional data gathering and processing. Please do not follow Dailykos.com into the ever more frequent use of curse words and inevitable attendant decline in the quality of its articles.

Beth H
Guest

Happy to see bicycle advertising that’s selling the cool.
BUT…
Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but I think anything can be made to look cooler as long as the model selling it is youngish, white, male, slender and good looking. It also doesn’t hurt if he’s well-off (note he’s passing over the key to BMW on the way to grabbing his smartphone, and he rides out of a hilltop house with a stunning view of Puget Sound).
Yeah, yeah, I know, average Americans don’t want to see themselves in an ad because they want to dream about being something else, something Not Average. Because average is not good. Because we’ve been taught to think that way.
I will stand up and cheer when an ad features someone who’s female, middle-aged, with a bit of a belly, gray hair, wrinkles and a buncha ear piercings. In short, someone who looks a lot less like mister supermodel and who looks a whole lot more like me. Because I am quite happy with my average, thanks.

Bill
Guest
Bill

Assist speeds up to 28 MPH… Not on this side of the pond… 🙁

The eBike Store
Guest

Friends at New Wheel in SF have a great eBike Video as well!

https://youtu.be/DUBvQ0NaJiQ

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

E-bikes are motorcycles. Much like the Segway is for lazy walkers, the e-motorcycle is for lazy cyclists.

Adam
Subscriber

Nice commercial but why does that bike have to be so sporty?

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

That is a well done advertisement. It helps that the bike is dripping with electronic gadgetry. Otherwise it’d just be a guy riding around.

I don’t think you need a big marketing budget to create such an ad. I’ve seen equally evocative videos for Kickstarter campaigns. Some even shot on iPhones.

Getting such an ad on TV is what takes the big marketing budget. But YouTube, FB, etc have as much reach as TV.