I was thumbing through the current issue of Velonews when I came across the following ad (click to see large version):
Cannondale, I’m afraid your ad agency and I need to have a little talk.
It’s Like Outfitting Street Thugs with a Fleet of Ferrari’s?
Let’s start with the headline. You are saying, in effect, that giving Cannondale road bikes to Team Health Net is like giving violent felons overpriced, mechanically finicky sports cars. This seems ill-advised, at best.
Clearly, Cannondale, your ad lets the world know you are one angry company. And I’d be angry too if I had recently gone through bankruptcy due to one of the most outrageously boneheaded business moves in recent history (maybe the motorcycles would have been more popular if they had a “Lefty” fork?).
The text of your ad (click to see larger, more legible version), though, is more than just angry. It’s comically angry.
Let’s analyze it.
- North American cycling is like a street fight. You see, Cannondale, you’re starting off on the wrong foot here. I can see that you’re trying to hint at the brutality of the term “gang fight” without actually saying it, but the term “street fight” just makes me think of West Side Story. Next, I think your metaphor doesn’t really work. You see, North American cycling is more like a race than a fight. Specifically, it’s like a European road race, but not as fast, interesting, or dramatic. But I can see how that might not make good ad copy. If you need a more accurate metaphor, I’d like to suggest the United Nations. Think about it: Separate factions come together, mostly working cooperatively, while keeping certain personal or team agendas in mind. Good visual potential for the ad, too.
- Chains are flying: Next time you think about running an ad, Cannondale, you may want to run the copy by someone who actually rides a road bike. When I hear “chains are flying,” I think, “Wow, the frame must be horribly out of alignment. That must be a terrible bike.” I don’t want my chain to fly, Cannondale. I want it to silently spin on the cogs, an unobtrusive blur of motion, whirring so smoothly and steadily that you have to look closely to tell it’s moving at all.
- Elbows are clashing: Okay, now you’re just reinforcing the West Side Story image. I mean, do elbows ever clash anywhere besides in choreographed fights in musicals and Michael Jackson videos from the 80’s?
- Heart rates are pinned. Pinned? Pinned? Now not only is my mental image of North American cycling trending toward a community production of West Side Story, it’s now a community production of West Side Story as performed by Phil Liggett.
- And the baddest gang by far is Health Net Presented by Maxxis. Look. You’re just embarrassing yourself when you show off a bunch of skinny white guys in what looks like Garanimals as imagined by Eminem, then say “baddest.” Also, this verbiage, combined with the West Side Story imagery, forcibly calls Michael Jackson videos to mind (“Because I’m bad! I’m bad! Jamon, you know it!”). Please, cut it out. I beg you.
- Now, imagine giving a bunch of thugs the fastest get-away vehicles around. Now I’m confused. Are the bikes weapons, or getaway (or “get-away” as you seem to prefer) vehicles? And why are these guys running away from a fight? Are the Health Net guys cowards? Or are they just bad dancers?
- That’s what we did when we hooked these guys up with a quiver of Cannondales. Oh, for crying out loud. A quiver? Now you’ve switched over to Robin Hood imagery.
- This is one hostile gang that’s gonna steal every podium in sight. Oh, that’s smart. In this age of constant allegations of illegal activity by professional athletes, use your ad space — one of few places where you control the message — to say that your team needs to steal in order to win. I’m curious, Cannondale: do you have a follow-up ad planned showing the riders selling crack?
It’s Not About the Bikes.
Cannondale, I’d like to ask you a question that your ad agency should perhaps have asked itself: “What business is Cannondale in?” It seems to me that you might want to be in the business of building and selling bikes. If that’s the case, I’d like you to take a good look at how prominently your bikes figure into this ad.
These photos are so dark and the bikes are so well-hidden, I can’t tell what models they are. Frankly, I had to take a close look to determine that they’re even road bikes. And I for sure can’t determine that there’s anything remotely Ferrari-like about them.
Nor, Evidently, Is It About the Riders.
One could reasonably argue, however, that this ad isn’t really about selling bikes. It’s about promoting the Health Net team. In which case, I’d like you to take a look at the faces of Team Health Net (click to see larger version), which is, by the way, a medical insurance company:
I looked at these faces, and then, just for fun, went to the team site and tried to match the racers on the site to the gangstas in the ad.
I couldn’t. They all look like Eminem to me.
I feel especially bad for this guy, though:
Looking at him, I have to ask: Why is his hat so big? Are those white velour sweatpants? And most importantly, does he really plan to use that bike chain as a weapon, or did it just “fly” off his bike, due to a misaligned frame?
To conclude, Cannondale, I would like to offer some advice: Just play it cool, boy.
The Fat Cyclist
PS: Cannondale, my weight today is 167.2 pounds. Do you think I’m too fat to be a bike thug?