A friend I was meeting with to talk over some career advice mentioned the ad agency Victors & Spoils. Strangely enough their office is about a 5 minute walk from my first apartment in Boulder, Colorado on Pearl Street. V&S have a very unique approach to their creative and production work. While they have a fairly typical agency framework within their home office, when it comes to generating concepts for new client work they turn to their extensive digital community and boldly offer the opportunity to virtually anyone who signs up on their site to pitch ideas. They create a tight framework so they’re not spending months sorting through each pitch but also enjoy the benefit of casting a very wide net in the search for original thinking, which can be especially valuable when working on established brands.

As I started to look into V&S further I was particularly impressed with their approach to Harley-Davidson who had let their longtime agency go and were looking for someone new to represent their brand. At that point Victors & Spoils CEO John Winsor sent a tweet to Harley’s CEO Keith Wandell letting him know that they were going to take on the challenge using their online creative community. It’s unclear whether Wandell had even heard of V&S before this but he was clearly impressed by their confidence and added them to the official pitch process. After meeting in Milwaukee with Harley’s management Victors & Spoils came away with the business in a huge industry coup.

Inspired by their story and looking for a challenge myself I decided to participate in their open pitch for Harley-Davidson. I know a bit about the thinking of a typical Harley rider as my brother (pictured above) has ridden their bikes for years with his motorcycle crews. I bribed him with beer, whiskey and snacks and he rode over to do a photo shoot on the railroad tracks near our place in Bushwick. My concept was called Ride Your Own Map and used this tagline, “Riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle gives you the freedom to create an authentic, personal experience every day as you carve your own path across the roads of the world.”

My idea advanced me past the first round but didn’t make the final cut. I came up with some interesting execution ideas and you can read some of those after the jump. I ended up really enjoying this process and look forward to trying my hand at whatever their next project is.

Ride Your Own Map

Riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle gives you the freedom to create an authentic, personal experience every day as you carve your own path across the roads of the world.

The minute you sit down on the bike you’ve got a head start on life’s never ending traffic jam. You’re in charge. No autopilot. No cruise control. You’re plugged in to nothing but the road. No Google maps. No GPS. Harley-Davidson riders experience the road in a way that other drivers never get close to. While they drive around in circles, mindlessly following the same path as the day before, you take the high road or the low road but always a new road. They can have the straight lane, you’ll hug the curves. You now have the power to make every day a little better by taking a different route, creating a history of tiny memories that only you and your bike will share. An outlaw writes his own traffic laws, starting with, “Make getting from Point A to Point B more fun.”

Video illustrating these scenes could be easily shot or we (V&S) could create an interactive contest that asks Harley-Davidson riders to send in photos or video that shows them “riding their own map.” Taking shortcuts, side streets, cut throughs, unexpected paths, scenic routes – anything that shows them giving their everyday drive a spark by using the bike to take charge of their ride.

This could be contrasted directly with the pitfalls of life’s traffic jam; A slow-moving city bus, a stalled rush hour subway car, a street blocked by marathon runners, a pedicab pedaling overweight tourists uphill, a suburban highway stuck in gridlock, a sea of slow-moving cabs with their “off duty” lights on, etc.

We could also utilize the idea of plugging into the road as an opportunity to poke fun at people attached to mobile devices and social media. Safe to say real Harley riders are not spending their Saturdays on Facebook, Twitter, 4Square, Tumblr, etc. We could cut into our primary video with pop up images of lame status updates.

  • FB: Can’t believe you went as Bieber this year!!!
  • Twitter: Stuck in traffic. Again. #FML
  • 4Square: I just became the mayor of Coffee Town!
  • Tumblr: New blog post: My Top 10 California Reds

Obviously this strategy is counter to 99% of current advertising’s desire to harness social media but in this case, with Harley riders who value personal interaction, I think you’ll not only get an easy laugh but recognition that the campaign has a basic understanding of their culture.

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