Where are all the good bicycle commercials?

WorldStreets posted a new Hyundai commercial today showing all of its ‘green’ initiatives and featuring happy birds singing “What a wonderful world”. Clearly this atrocity is evidence of a dying industry clutching at straws. Most of us get pummeled by car advertisements everywhere.

But what I want to know is, where are all the good tv advertisements for bicycles?

A quick look at YouTube suggests that this area is pretty ripe. There aren’t really any good bike advertisements. This is the most watched (188K) but I find it a bit lame. It finishes with “we believe… in bicycles”. That’s bull.

This is what Americans believe in. Cars and Freedom.

Notice this viedo has also been viewed 1.2M times.

We need bicycle commercials that can compete with this kind of thing. So where’s the “bicycles and freedom” commercial? Can someone make that happen?

Mikael Andersen is perhaps making the most commendable efforts in this direction, but we need more voices.

We have got to get away from the bike-because-it’s-good-for-you-and-the-planet health and environment plugs. People should bike because it’s great, it’s fun and it’s liberating. Biking is freedom.

If we don’t start doing some serious work to change people’s mentalities, bicycles will just continue to be followers of so-called “green” cars.


16 responses to “Where are all the good bicycle commercials?

  1. but who are would those commercials be for? is the bike industry in need of attracting the attention of the tv/net-watching public. just asking…

    • I should be clear that I don’t mean to imply we should be (necessarily) be producing full production TV commercials. They could be low budget viral videos or other more guerrilla marketing tactics. When you don’t have money, you need to get creative. I just mean we need better marketing tactics and that we need to be tapping into people’s desires and showing how biking can better accomplish their existing motivations, not trying to convince them to “change”.

      I should also be clear that I’m not asking the “bike industry” to do anything. Judging by the Trek commercial, selling bicycles is not necessarily the same as achieving a culture in which bicycling as transportation is a key part. They would be just as happy maintaining the status quo (biking for health, recreation, etc.) as long as people buy more bikes (even if they store them in the garage half the time). Of course, the more they bike the more bikes and bike stuff they will buy. But for Trek’s purposes it’s the same if they are hard core weekend warriors (better perhaps) than if they are just biking to work in everyday clothes without specialized and expensive equipment. I expect these media campaigns to come from non-profits, activists, and talented passionate artists and cinematographers- not necessarily Trek and Schwinn.

      Do we need the tv/net-watching public? Yes. Absolutely. We need to take this out of the sub-culture niches and make biking attractive to the mass market. But we need to invest more time and money in marketing. And we need to approach it totally differently than we are now.

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  4. wail on this topic i have a friend who makes awesome movies, most feature bicycles. when ever i see his work it makes me want to go out and ride! that s what a bicycle commercial should make you want to do.

    si link: http://vimeo.com/user297078/videos


    • I really like his videos- nice cinematography, music, composition, etc. But he is still very focused on portraying bicycling sub-cultures. I want to take cycling to the masses and show how an ordinary woman in her 40s, an 8 year old child, or even a retiree could just get on a bike and go to the grocery store. Banal. Boring. Everyday. Normal. Who can make compelling marketing to convince those people that cycling could be a choice for them?

      • Jonny Perrott

        agreed! i posted the link for entertainment. these shorts are all very ‘sub-culturey’.
        Who can make compelling marketing to convince those people that cycling could be a choice for them? i don’t know, another question is, Who would make money if the masses choose to ride bicycles?
        i was in the mall last night (somewhere in Germany) i noticed how much of the media, posters and such featured a fully styled up model with a bicycle somewhere in the scene (i am going to start collecting pictures of all these, some day i will share). but again these ads are not designed to sell cycling, they are designed to sell sexy clothing. these adds/media are some kind of proof that cycling is seen as sexy (sub-culturey) rather than normal. great topic

        jonny p

      • I think David Byrne may have beat you to that assembly of images and videos but if you put it together, I will post it. I’d love to see that.

  5. Great point about getting away from the “because it’s good for you” angle on biking. This reminds me of Melinda Gates’ TED Talk encouraging non-profits to learn from Coca-Cola. Despite the talk’s failings, I think it does make a case for shifting the messaging surrounding environmental and health issues, which currently focus on presenting more data to back up their “it’s good for you” or “it’s good for the planet” claim. Coke doesn’t market its products as “good for you”, but rather as an experience of happiness, and they’re very successful. They tap into what people really want, rather than remind people of what they need.

    Gates states that it’s a big mistake to think, “If people need something, then we don’t have to make them want that.”

    I’m curious to see what others think about this idea. It seems like it should be much easier to connect biking to freedom in people’s minds than high fructose corn syrup to happiness.

  6. Todd Edelmann passed on the following link which has some excellent examples: http://www.trendy-travel.eu/trendyclips.phtml.

  7. The B:C: Clettes have some pretty great videos on bike safety. Helmets and lights. From Vancouver, where you can get fined for riding without a helmet and lights. I’m not sure they’re sending the exact message you want Ezra. But the videos are a lot of fun.


  8. Your bullline beneath the Trek commercial triggered me to look for a good Dutch commercial. I found this rather new one from Batavus; simple in text and rather realistic in images. ‘Op weg’ means ‘on the road to’ wich is a saying for getting somewhere physically and in terms of time, on the road to the futere. Lame? I think realistic and close to the everyday use of bikes.

    Rather interesting blog, btw.

  9. Oh, and if you can understand some dutch, this one is fot the cyclists on the Citroen commercial!

    (The guy with the car is bragging about his features on his new car : 21 inch wheels, 6 gears, ESP, ABS etc. His neighbour replies stating he’s got 28 inch wheels, 8 gears and halogeenlighting. And his wife and daughter have one too… And even a green C4 emits this kind of pleasure).

  10. Jonny Perrott

    with another thought,

    we ask ‘Where are all the good bicycle commercials?’ i was flipping threw some circa 1970’s – ‘history of the bicycle’ type books on my shelf, and recently visited a Mercedes Benz museum, witch had a far better bicycle collection than car collection. i noticed around the turn of the century there was tuns of bicycle adds, in the form of posters (the medium of the time), marketed to what would seem to be the middle-upper class of the day. so maybe we can ask ‘Where did all the good bicycle commercials go?’ Now maybe i am just looking at a Sample and assuming it was mainstream advertising, Maybe cycling back in the day was considered a subculture type activity equally to today. I don’t know tho… i was not there.


    • I suspect it depends on when and where in the past you are talking about. In Denmark, Holland and Germany in the first half of the 20th century, it was pretty mainstream. It wasn’t until the car system can into power post-WWII that all of that changed. It was also, in the very early days- just as with cars- a bit of a luxury good before it became something for the masses. Another good question is whether this is an inevitable paradigm- that new solutions will start with the rich before ‘trickling down’ to the masses. Wish you could dig up some examples!

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