It started with a social media post from the Italian motorcycle maker, with a naked female model posed provocatively on the new MV Agusta Superveloce 800.
The photo was a classic playing of an old motorcycle industry trope, where a sexy girl is draped over a motorcycle, like lavish window dressing at a fancy department store, hoping to get your attention…and then later your hard-earned money.
In that regard, MV Agusta’s ad campaign is nothing new for the motorcycle industry. Move along folks, nothing to see here.
This is business as usual in the two-wheeled world, and while even though the video campaign that came after the social media blitz was even more bizarre (and pornographic) in its story (or lack there of), we doubt few in Varese saw issue with the choice of messaging.
Sexy bike + sexy girl + quick edits = bikes sell. That is the basic formula that the monkeys in the motorcycle marketing departments have been using for the past 50 years. So why change it now?
I could write a long story about the continued objectification of women in the motorcycle industry, and how the video (shown above) and photos continue the misogynistic trend that has caused our industry to high-five itself over a paltry 19% of riders being female. We can have that debate.
You know, the one that divides our comments section by those who say stop being so sensitive to seeing a naked girl (better known as the “I like boobs” argument), and those who put on their social justice warrior costumes and play out another contest of recreational outrage online.
This of course would require us to realize that in a time where executives, celebrities, and politicians are losing their jobs and more because of “boys will be boys” behavior, that motorcycle industry is still working with a playbook that is stuck almost 50 years in the past.
But, the real issue isn’t that advertisements like the MV Agusta produced still exist, it is the fact that there are still people in the industry who don’t see anything wrong with this kind of messaging. That, that is the real core of the problem.
We live in the #MeToo movement now; reproductive rights are a battleground issue in the United States; and an entire generation of women is being told to lean in. While female ridership growth is increasing, the reality behind that statistic is that the population of old white men who ride motorcycles is steadily dropping off a cliff.
Meanwhile, a new generation of potential motorcycle riders are coming. But, they are different. They believe in a myriad of social issues that eschew the norms we hold to steadfast in the motorcycle industry – they even question the concept of gender alltogether.
They are more green conscious, more debt-burdened, more educated, and more likely to rent/share/lease than to buy. But perhaps most importantly, their value systems are completely different from the ones the motorcycle industry holds so very dear.
So, we can have the debate, where we pretend that grid girls are just a part of the pageantry of motorsport, where “the bitch fell off” t-shirts are not offensive to our rough biker exteriors, and where we ask women who walk into dealerships if they like to ride on the back of their boyfriend’s bike.
We can have that debate all day and night if you want, and I won’t change your mind any quicker than you will change mine, but that conversation would cause us to miss the point completely.
The writing is on the wall, the motorcycle industry is slipping away, no one is looking 10 years out in their crystal ball and seeing good times ahead. The mantra should be “adapt or die” at this point.
We often talk about how we are going to engage the next generation with motorcycles, and I can tell you one thing that is not up for debate. This is not how we will do it.
MV Agusta, and the motorcycle industry at large, you have been put on notice.