Carmichael Lynch, the ad agency behind Harley-Davidson’s “Screw it, Let’s Ride” campaign, has just announced that it will be parting ways with the Milwaukee motorcycle manufacturer. In a pair of “it’s not you, it’s me” press releases, the two companies, which have partnered together for the past 31 years, cite different reasons for their mutual departures.
Harley-Davidson CMO Mark-Hans Richer said in the company’s statement that, “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.” Meanwhile according to Advertising Age, President of Carmichael Lynch Doug Spong said that, “Our agency leadership came to the consensus that we’ve taken the Harley-Davidson brand as far as we can. It’s in our best interest to part ways.”
If rumors surrounding the announcement are true, Harley-Davidson was less than pleased with the old school thinking and practices that Carmichael Lynch was bringing to the table for the motorcycle manufacturer. It’s no secret now that Harley-Davidson is trying to grow its appeal to younger riders, which for the brand means engaging a generation that was brought up on Nintendo, the internet, cell phones, and social media.
To meet these needs Harley-Davidson has been increasingly using an array of different media sources and ad agencies in its arsenal to reach new riders, and Carmichael Lynch’s lack of a real digital, social, and search game plen left the agency unusable for these needs.
Carmichael Lynch on the other hand points to its long history of providing successful market communications for Harley-Davidson, especially when the company had a PR disaster regarding its product reliability. Carmichael Lynch President Doug Spong said in statement that, “it didn’t come down to any one thing, but if you look at the challenge right now of growing Harley’s sales — they’ve weathered a tough few years in terms of the recession,” continued Lynch. “We’ve supported them through good times and bad.”
We think that a past history of towing the line is poor substitute for showing a shining light on an uncertain path to a client. If we were Harley-Davidson, we’d expect our partners, even one’s of long standing, to prove how their going to bring value to our future business, but perhaps Carmichael Lynch’s response was “Screw It, Let’s Ride.” Thanks for the tip Doug!