05 September 2008

Promoting Cycling in America - Yes, You Read That Correctly

What a fantastic ad for beer and cycling. I thought the whole 'patriot' thing was a tad cheesy the first time I saw it, but upon watching it a couple of times I realised it works so well with the images and the mood. Splendid stuff. That could be a Danish street in the winter and the constant sound of rattling glass is an urban Copenhagen soundtrack on weekends here. Bottles of beer and wine jingle jangling their way to parties on bikes.

The Miller advert really presents 'freedom' well. Freedom of movement that the bicycle provides, and has always provided. The advent of the 'safety' bicycle in the late 1800's launched a liberation of the working classes by providing them with a cheap, flexible form of transport. This advert follows that tradition. The character is Blue Collar USA. All he wants to do is get home from work and have a beer afting working hard all day. Why should people he'll never meet dictate how he does that? Whether it's 'the OPECS' or his own government? Manpower indeed.

Back in the early 1960's a few filmmakers - Pennebaker, Leacock and Drew - started what we in the film industry call 'One man, one camera' - an extension of Cinéma Vérité. They made documentaries and did so without the usual film crew entourage. It gave them a freedom of movement and a new intimacy with their subject matter. Much the same as the bicycle.

One man. One bike.

Here's another one that is considerbly more corny, but it is right 'in your face' about bikes being affordable and feasible transport options. I'm loving the guy's bike.

So exciting to have recieved these two films from readers in the same week. Keep them coming, from all round the world.


Karl On Sea said...

I love them both . . . but I'm going to have to start the helmet debate again. Sorry!

OK, so here's the thing. Inspired by great blogs like this, I'm wearing my helmet less and less - basically just for racing and training. For most commuting and riding about town, I now go au naturelle. But for riding on snowy, icy roads I will definitely be wearing a helmet in the winter - even for the pootle along to the shop to pick up a couple of beers for after work.

The reason for this is that I think that going over in the snow is precisely the kind of accident that a helmet is designed to provide protection for. You get no warning, and the wheels slide out from under you before you can say "Meets Standard EN1078", or "Crazy scaremongering adverts from Bel" - even when you're moving at a snail's pace. You don't tend to get time to put your hand down (and fracture your wrist); you go straight down; your shoulder takes the initial impact, and then your head slaps into the road, with an impact above your ear, about 2" above the level of your eyes.

I've fallen off in the snow both with and without a helmet on my head. It's a lot less uncomfortable with the helmet.

In conditions that aren't icy though, a helmet probably isn't necessary - especially for those biking around the neighbourhood kind of journeys. So what on earth are the kids in the credit ad. doing with lids on? Or do they just want to look geeky?

SO . . . my contention is that the guy in the beer ad. should probably have a lid on (but it's his choice - no compunction), while the kids in the credit ad. really don't need to.

Yet again, US advertising gets the details back to front. D'oh!

Zakkaliciousness said...

interesting observation, karl.

2whls3spds said...

I am ambivalent on the freecreditreport.com advertisement. It is the typical dig at someone that cannot afford something so they end up on a "crappy" bicycle, and if you have seen the earlier ads a crappy car, or living in the basement at their inlaws. In reality the joke is on them, those Raleighs are becoming very desirable and while you may stumble upon one for $25, that is becoming less and less likely. I have a 1972 Raleigh Superbe that I ride quite regularly and paid quite a bit more than that for it, however it was worth it to me.

karl, I am with you on the helmets, I rode for years without them and have come to the general conclusion that they are useful in some applications, like racing or other high risk activities, but not really necessary for casual low speed riding.


disgruntled said...

The beer one's great because he's out there in the snow and his jacket's flapping open - where's his high tech base layer, his wicking fabric and his Goretex?

Course he'll probably get hypothermia if he cycles back like that with all the beer inside...

amsterdamize said...

@disgruntled : didn't you hear the most important part in the ad? He's a man's man :)

@Karl: I dunno, but (my personal lifetime observations) even in snow people (parents/kids/youth/elderly, whatever) here don't seem to think a helmet is needed, more likely they'll fall on their behind.

I love the ad too, I see great purpose going from 'chicks and beers sells best' to 'bicycles and beers'. I know, Mikael, for now, you have to wait a little longer until I drink you under the table ;)

2whls3spds said...

Okay...now I have seen the beer one (if you consider Miller High Life beer ;-) ) I like it, what it does for cycling or beer for that matter is open to debate, but I still like it and the concept.


Anonymous said...

One thing to consider about the helmet snow thing is that sliding out on a road bike with drop bars is much different than having and upright bike slide out from underneath you. On an upright bike you are much more spread out so your polar moment on inertia is higher and you are less likely to fall and if you do, you are likely to hit the ground with less rotational velocity. The likely wider and lower pressure tires of upright bike are less likely to slip in first place and generally give more warning when they are about to slide. An added benefit of the upright bike is that your balance is better when your head is more vertical and closer to the orientation your inner ear evolved to maintain. finally, the front to rear weight distribution makes the front wheel less likely to slip out in a catastrophic manner.

I have had my upright slide out once or twice and only suffered a bruised bum. However, if I rode in slippery conditions a lot, I would probably wear a helmet. Of course, I would have find it first, I have not seen it in 20 years.


Yvette said...

Hiya, sorry to just jump in, but had to add my 2 cents...

I love the beer ad, very American and yet pushing the idea of "freedom" that a bike s clearly embodies.

I hate the credit ad--but I hate all their ads. I agree that it is kind of derogatory about the "main character" although... there are a bunch of people on bikes in the spot so it's arguable that it's pro-biking in general, so yay!

however, I do have a comment about the helmet thing. I am not a huge fan of helmets for general riding but have just this week been giving a warning shot across my nose (or across my head to be exact). Perhaps in bike-friendly places like Amsterdam (which I love love love), helmets are not a big deal, but in Miami Beach, where bikers are derided and treated with no respect whatsoever, and where biking surfaces are few and usually in awful states, a helmet might come in handy and prevent serious damage. I took a dive on a whacked out uneven pavement and wound up in the ER with a pretty serious head hematoma that probably would have been prevented (or lessened) had I worn my helmet. So I guess my point is we can't make sweeping generalizations re: helmets, and judge each situation accordingly.
I do hope biking picks up here in the states, as there is nothing so wonderful as riding along with the breeze in your face and knowing you are using the most earth-friendly transportation around!!!
Thanks for listenin'...

Mr. Crankypants said...

Much better than the Autozone ads. Even though I’m not a drinker, I do like the beer ad. It’s nice to see bikes portrayed as normal. And big, big props for showing the guy riding in less than ideal conditions. Bikes are much more all weather than many people think. In my neck o’ th’ woods, one of the most common reasons I hear from non-riders for not riding is it’s “too cold”. And that’s before there’s even any snow on the ground! Apparently anything less than room temperature is too cold ???

I have to agree with Karl on riding lidded* come wintertime. Unpredictable traction, even with studded tires, and my…rather exuberant riding style make winter the time I always ride with a lid. As an added bonus, the lid keeps my touque in place when I do part ways with the bike under less than ideal circumstances. Further to that thought, winter riding is one of the few time I prefer a backpack to panniers because the extra padding helps cushion the impact when landing flat on your back (ask me how I know this). Helmets work much better than a touque for preventing the headthump this style of crash usually involves (how do I know this? see the above reference to exuberant riding). Maybe it’s different if you have bike paths that are maintained and kept ice free, but not all of us have that available.

~Mr. Crankypants

* just so I’m not hated here because I wear a lid: I don’t support helmet legislation. Please put the flamethrowers down. Thank You.

njh said...

I would say that falling in snow is a definitely a 'polar moment'. :)

Yokota Fritz said...

I've always liked that Miller ad although I don't drink.

Have you seen the ads from New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins? They have some nice ones also. Here's one, here 's a variation. I used to live not far from where they shot those commercials.

twodeadpoets said...

The first advert is meant to tap into that stereotype "independent thinking tough guy American" (sans helmet and riding in the snow) with a bit of joking commentary (big American male allowing nothing to stop him from getting his Miller beer... even if means getting on his daughter's bike in the snow). It's a double entendre.

The second, I won't even watch as I remember seeing it before and getting dry heaves.

Philboy said...

The cool thing about the Miller beer ad is that there have been many others in this same style with the same gruff voiceover and they are all about being a 'Real Man'. Sure its a tongue in check stereotype of an American Real Man, but still the message is that Real Men ride bikes. Cool!

Not only that but the real man doesn't dress up or ride a stylish bike, its not about the bike, its about the beer. Isn't that Cycliciousness's main message? Go about your everyday business on a bike.

Zakkaliciousness said...

yes, i like the contrast between "that's the way Patriot... etc" and the character and his actions.

that's the message, yes... :-)

Fonk said...

I love that Miller ad, too (had even posted it on my own blog a while back). What sucks is that it never hit the TV waves here though. From what I've read, Miller realized (at the time - this was before gas rose to $4/gal) that the bike thing really just wasn't going to play over with the "real men" of America, so it just remained an obsure web ad pleasing only those of us who are already inclinded to ride bikes.

Given all that has transpired since the time that ad was originall published, I'd love to see them put it on TV now, as it might actually get a fairly receptive audience now.