Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A breakup.

I always get a little sad when you see an agency and a client break up after a long and successful run. It makes me feel gloomy for the industry--when an agency's work saves a client or drives a client's success and then they are dismissed. Undoubtedly, the reasons for advertising breakups are as complicated as the reasons for relationship breakups. But somehow, I always take the side of the agency.

The latest breakup involves Carmichael-Lynch, the storied Minneapolis agency, and Harley-Davidson, the storied Milwaukee motorcycle manufacturer.

For 31 years Carmichael-Lynch has done outstanding ads for Harley. Helped them stave off bankruptcy. Helped make them iconic, cool, a standard in a motorcycle world teeming with cheaper Japanese imports.

And now it's over.

Mark-Hans Richer, Harley's chief marketing officer explained things, incomprehensibly, this way: "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. 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."

I'm not sure what Richer's words mean. Like I said, they're incomprehensible.

It probably means Harley's work will suck and no one will see it.


bob hoffman said...

This is the kind of infuriating bullshit that happens when an agency is way smarter than a CMO.

Joe said...

Maybe Harley did some research and found that their main market will stop buying their more expensive bikes sooner rather than later. New, lower cost bikes might be on the way for a younger segment, but one that represents their future, and their old agency couldn't reach them as effectively. Just my guess.

Steve Popp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sell! Sell! said...

I'd hazard a guess that their most valuable customers aren't younger people, and aren't likely to be younger people, but rather the new generation of middle-aged people with bundles of cash. But then, what do I know? This is a shame, either way.

george tannenbaum said...

Ya, that was the point, Sell! That the newspeak delivered by Richer is a fancy way to eviscerate a relationship that saved a company and built a brand. Richer comes from GM--Pontiac. He will surely find ways to recreate his success at Harley. Like cutting sales by 70% while getting his picture in the advertising trades. He will make Harley a has been brand. Wait and see.