Selling Motorcycles With Sex

Selling Motorcycles with Sex – the Saga of MV Agusta

In case you missed it, because you have a real life or something, motorcycle company MV Agusta created a sensation recently by creating a video ad showing a naked female on a new MV Agusta.  The video was shot in near darkness, with strategically placed spotlights and dry ice smoke to make it sort of a tease.

In the resulting furor over the horror of such a thing, the ad was pulled from the company web site.  Cynics will opine that this was the plan all along. But this is 2019, so the ad is already on YouTube, where it can be seen by millions, and probably will be. This may also have been planned.

First take: For me the ad is a failure because I can no longer remember the model of motorcycle being promoted.  Or – for the cynical, the ad is a success because MV Agusta sells so few motorcycles that getting the brand discussed in the twitterverse and other social media is a huge win – even if the discussions are negative.  When was the last time you saw an MV Agusta being ridden?

But seriously – really?  People are shocked and horrified that a company is using a scantily clad (or in this case non-clad) woman to sell a product?  Hello?  I know the world has changed, but this is not new.  Compared to a few decades ago it is even sort of tame. The woman is never shown in the light from the front, and most of what you see is her rear end (and a lovely rear end it is), and some dark shadowy shots of breasts and hair and face. Back in the 1960s it was common for manufacturers to use female models at shows who were wearing almost, and sometimes literally, nothing. 

Harley for several years produced promo posters with the same woman, always dressed in alluring outfits on a new Harley model. They were extremely popular.  Motorcycle ads have featured attractive men and women since the machine was invented, in various stages of dress. For decades, Pirelli car tires produced calendars that featured naked women (and tires) that were so popular they became a significant profit aspect for the business, and instantly collectible. And on and on.

But what of men?  Well, there is a thriving industry that uses attractive men and women to sell all sorts of products. Shall we put all of them out of work?  Are we just upset about the nudity?  OK, I can sort of see that, but the most powerful man in the world brags about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it, and we are appalled by some naked flesh?

What about the woman in the ad?  I assume she was paid.  It is likely her face and figure will be desired for future campaigns, at an increased fee, so is she a victim?

Are the men who work for Chippendale’s being exploited?  Are male actors who seem to be cast in pictures where they will be shirtless most of the time being taken advantage of?

Here’s an example.  Almost 50 years ago I worked as an Underground Tour guide in Pioneer Square.  One of my colleagues was a nice guy who was very good looking.  His wife was also gorgeous, and they were both sweet and kind to each other and to everyone else.  He could also sit down at the grand piano in their living room and entertain you by playing the score of several musicals and singing along, while his wife made the coffee and served dessert.  It was like being in a movie.

Anyway, one day we were chatting in the sun outside the Yesler building, waiting for the next tour.  A guy came up to my friend and asked him if he had ever done any modeling.   My friend had not, so the guy gave him a card and told my friend to contact him.  As he walked away my friend asked “What would I be modeling?”   The answer was…. “Penis jewelry.”

Neither of us knew such jewelry existed, and he decided not to pursue that sort of modeling.  A few minutes later it hit me. We were both fully clothed.  How did the guy know which of us had a better-looking penis?  Totally unfair.

Men and women have been interested in the appearance of other men and women, in various combinations, since fig leaves were the apparel of choice.  Marketing mavens have been using this basic law of nature to market products for centuries and more.  Do we now ban all attractive people from using their gifts to make money?  Will we ban people born with math skills from becoming CPAs or CFOs?

It gets silly pretty quickly.

Another example. Years ago, I was returning to Cycle Barn from an event aboard a gorgeous metallic green Triumph Sprint ST, which I owned.  I was clad in my custom made black and blue Vanson leather pants and jacket adorned with Cycle Barn logos. I had on new boots and snazzy gloves, topped off with a yellow Arai helmet with a dark tinted shield. Probably the most attractive I’ve ever been, but of course that is a low bar.

At a stoplight there was a car next to me with several attractive young women. I could see by their faces and gestures that they were discussing the “stud” on the motorcycle next to them. As the light changed, I thought about flipping up the visor so they could see that I was 58 years old, but I demurred, fearing that the driver might scream in horror and careen into a telephone pole. Or me.

If I were a “brand manager” or “media consultant” for MV Agusta, (frightening thought), I would have bade two versions be prepared.  The second would have been the same ad with a naked male model, focusing, as with the first one, on his butt, his chest (in shadow), and his face and hair. I would have placed that one on the web site a day after the first one, and watched the media hit score climb.

To be really adventurous, it would have been interesting to lead with the male version.

Off to ride my Triumph to an event today.  To the relief of all, I will be fully clothed.

Copyright 2019                      David Preston

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About david

I am a 74 year old motorsports nut who lives in Snohomish, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Rocket 3 (2020), a 2020 Triumph Bonneville, and a 2016 Ford Focus ST. What else would you like to know?
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1 Response to Selling Motorcycles With Sex

  1. Patrick says:

    Dave… You’re wrong about the ad not being effective….

    The fact that you are compelled to comment and distribute your thoughts through another medium is evidence of the effectiveness and capacity to attract and engage a wider audience of potential purchasers….

    Another thing I believe your are missing regarding the use of the female form in advertising of things that are products of industrial design art, is a comparative appreciation of form…. Something that designers and propagandists alike leverage to attract and engage the target audience…The sculpture of David (no pun, don’t let your head swell…) by Michelangelo can be of corollary in nature to the interpretation of the form and intention of the artist and in that context, the intentions of the religious body-politic it was commissioned by…

    Now certainly these things can be usurped by a more base interpretation by those whose myopic frame of reference constrains their appreciation to an urge response or even less, as psychosis, that has nothing to do with appreciation of the form or intentional implications… However, the propagandist (marketer) must understand their product (advertisment) is one of subjective nature and will be misinterpreted by some… hopefully, a small percentage of the target audience, and to a larger extent, the message imbued in the propaganda will engage the intended target and compel the target in a way that feeds their desires and imagination so to inject inertia to motivate… (The feeding of affirmation and confirmation biases)

    If you are addressing the overt suppression of speech and opinion of voices, by those that believe they are the arbiters of morality and decorum, Then you of missed that mark…

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