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A RIDE THROUGH 100 YEARS OF MOTORCYCLE ADVERTISING

In this week’s post, we’ll navigate the 20th century through 9 motorcycle adverts to help us understand the evolution of print advertising  -from the early-century, text-based classic inserts, through the avant-garde influences in graphic design and the groovy 60s creative revolution to the powerful taglines of the 90s- and how it contributed to shaping the motorcycle imagery of each decade.

 

Just like the film industry, advertising loves archetypes –creating them, overdoing them, playing with them or even disrupting them. Cultural constructions around the act of riding a motorcycle, though fluctuating and more open over time, have always been closely linked to an immense sense of freedom, adventure and hedonism. Alongside the likes of Monet & Goyon, Harley-Davidson, Triumph or Kawasaki, what follows is a brief look to how brands have been able to portray those concepts and how advertising gets to find its own language and rules to appeal to the target audiences in a way that is more emotional than logical.

10'S_Motorcycle_Ads 20'S_Motorcycle_Ads 30'S_Motorcycle_Ads 40'S_Motorcycle_Ads 50'S_Motorcycle_Ads 60'S_Motorcycle_Ads 70'S_Motorcycle_Ads 80'S_Motorcycle_Ads 90'S_Motorcycle_Ads

 

Turn of the century and the 10s

Through the first decade of the 20th Century some of the big names in bicycle manufacturing switched industries to become the iconic motorcycle brands they are to this date, such as Triumph. The idea of the being modern was hugely tied to technology, and advertising-wise, that was key to sell these state-of-the-art vehicles, as we can see in some motorcycle posters of the time. Note that the industry rose to new heights during WWI, which made some huge improvements possible.

1909 Indian    1913 Aurora

1909 Motosacoche

TERROT & Co DIJON 1904    1913 New Hudson 

1910 Gillet Motocyclettes

1912- Indian Motocycle Print    TERROT & Cie 1913

TERROT & Cie 1914    Indian 1916 - So long till Monday

 

The 20s

In the midst of artistic effervescence and unstoppable industrialization, advertising saw itself highly influenced by avant-garde movements like Futurism, Dada or Russian Constructivism, among many others that arose during those socially convulsive years. Art Deco had also been inspirational for some time, which was palpable not only in architecture, interior or graphic design, but also in cultural terms. Having a product that was synonymous of speed, freedom and, all in all, modernity, there’s no wonder why most motorcycle brands were inclined to join the on-trend aesthetics for over two solid decades (20’s & 30’s).



1922 Caballero    1922 Terrot - DIJON

1923 Moto Guzzi    1925 Condor Motorcycle

1929 Frera Moto Italia    BMW

Monet & Goyon 1920's Graphic

Monet & Goyon    Motos Peugeot 1920's

Terrot - DIJON 1928    Rovin

Norton 1929    Triumph 1929

 

The 30s

In the midst of artistic effervescence and unstoppable industrialization, advertising saw itself highly influenced by avant-garde movements like Futurism, Dada or Russian Constructivism, among many others that arose during those socially convulsive years. Art Deco had also been inspirational for some time, which was palpable not only in architecture, interior or graphic design, but also in cultural terms. Having a product that was synonymous of speed, freedom and, all in all, modernity, there’s no wonder why most motorcycle brands were inclined to join the on-trend aesthetics for over two solid decades (20’s & 30’s).

 1930 Dresch Deco Design  1930's CZ Motorcycle

1930's DKW    1932 La Moto Peugeot

1932 BMW

1932 Zundapp Motorcycles    1933 Gilera Italia Motorcycles

1935  MOTOS AUTOMOTO - M. PONTY    1935 Ariel- Leaders Of Design

1935 Gnome-Rhone    1935 Sunbeam - The Aristocrat    1937 Bianchi   1937 Puch

1937 Terrot   1938 Peugeot Motorcycle

 

The 40s

While most posters had been image-based and heavily informed by art movements, we see a major shift towards idealistic “slice-of-life” illustrations accompanied by clever copywriting emphasizing the benefits of using the advertised product. That’s the case for Norton, Harley-Davidson or Triumph, for instance.

1940 Das Motorrad Desert War Horex   1941 German Panther lightweight motorcycles

1941 Benelli - Like a rocket

1943 Norton   1947 Norton

1948 Triumph

1949 Laverda   1949 Reidel

 

The 50s

New forms of media arose, yet posters and other print media kept playing a big role as advertising formats in the early 50s. Motorcycle brands in the US aimed at capturing an ever-optimistic lifestyle, distinctive of the American way life.

1951 Matchless   1951 Victoria Motorcycle

1953 NSU

1952 MAGNAT DEBON   1953 BMW

1953 Zundapp

Panther 1956

1959 Sportsters   DKW Hummel 155 moped

1958 Ariel

 

The 60s

As revolutionary as they were, the mid and late 60s brought new perspectives from a young generation that had no time for conventions. That mindset took over the advertising world as well, and shaped the way printed campaigns were created. BMW’s “Happy for a lifetime” is an incredible example of that refreshing, smart and witty style.

1960 Maserati Motorcycle   1965 BSA

1960's Triumph

1965 Triumph   BMW 1965

1960 Royal Enfield Moderns

Jayne Mansfield for Lambretta 1960's   ducati 160 junior april 1966

1961 Bianchi

BMW   Lambretta 1967

Triumph 1963

 

The 70s

Motorcycle brands in the 70s took a more daring approach to advertising, presenting their products alongside beautiful women and big, flashy copywriting. As consumers were constantly exposed to advertisements in all forms, standing out among the crowd was no easy thing.

1971 kawasaki   1971 Yamaha

1971_KAWASAKI_500_MACH_III_H1_MARV_LYONS   1978 Life Helmets

Ducati 750   1978- Suzuki PE

BMW   Indian 1970's

BSA 120mph   Bultaco 70's

BSA   Derbi

Montesa Cota 247   Suzuki 70's

Suzuki 70's   Norton 70's

The 80s

Eye-catching images with strong headlines remained on trend during the 80s. Testimonial advertising seemed to become more and more established as an evidence of a product’s superiority in some way, as seen in ads from Kawasaki, for instance.

 

 1981 Ducati Pantah 500   80's Honda with Grace Jones

Honda 80's

80's vespa   1986 Suzuki

1985 Kawasaki

Bimota 80's   BMW - 80's

1989 KX250

Suzuki   Honda CX 500 Turbo

BMW - Even the rain can't touch it

 

The 90s

The emotional benefits of riding a motorcycle were still essential to advertisers in the 90s. What the motorcycle and automotive industry saw from that decade on was an increased need to connect with their target audience in a more intimate and relevant way, as consumers as a whole increasingly felt advertising was, on the contrary, something to avoid. While still important, print media and TV had to keep up with the Internet, which would disrupt not only advertising, but also communication at all levels.

Honda

1992_DERBI_VARIANT_GAMA   BMW 1990

Kawasaki 1993

Yamaha   HONDA 1990 - CBX 750F

1991 Kawasaki KX250

 

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