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Harley Davidson

Sep 12, 2014



My Senior Seminar Research Project: Coding Gender in Harley Davidson's Advertisements

  • David Pacheco

    David Pacheco

  • Harley Davidsons Basic Info:Location: Milwaukee, WisconsinFounded: 1903Founders: William S. Harley, Arthur Davidson, Walter Davidson, William A. Davidson Sells Heavyweight (over 750 cc) MotorcyclesHarley Davidsons logo accounts for 5% of their revenue.Harley Davidson sustains a loyal brand communityTeams, leagues, clubs, events, and a museum.

  • Introduction to ResearchArea Studied: Advertising CampaignsResearch Question:How does Harley Davidson code gender in their advertising campaigns in the last 20 years?Significance: To critically analyze and challenge Harley Davidsons advertisements and deconstruct their campaigns to see if there is any difference in the portrayal of gender.

  • Background to ResearchCritical Theory: Cultural StudiesEarlier Related Studies:Portrayal and Comparison of both Genders in AdvertisementsLeslie McArthur, The Portrayal of Men and Women in American TV Commercials Journal of Social Psychology. Dana Kivel, Consuming Media, Making Men: Using Collective Memory Work to Understand Leisure and the Construction of Masculinity. Journal of Leisure Research.Portrayal of Women in AdvertisementsNatalie MacKay, The Impact of Women in Advertisements on Attitudes Towards Men. Sex Roles Journal.Joey Senat, Editor & Publisher Slow to Change Depiction of Women Newspaper Research Journal.

  • Methods to ResearchMethod: Textual AnalysisFramework: Glasgow's 3 Levels of Deconstruction Levels of Ad Deconstruction:Literal LevelCultural LevelCritical Level

  • Sample Text InformationTime Frame: 1990-2009Availability: Harley Davidsons Website Text Significance Area: Gender/Power

  • Figure 1May wind be the only product in your hair. Plant your tail in the saddle of a Harley Davidson motorcycle and youve got an unflinching view. Here a man can undust his Adams apple. And in an age hell-bent on going soft, that bodes well for the backbone.

  • Figure 1 DeconstructionLiteral Level:Black and white picture (vintage)Close up shot of a mans nose and beardAge: 40-50Beard is untrimmed, windblownText May wind be the only product in you hair appears in the top left cornerText Plant your tail in the saddle of a Harley Davidson motorcycle and youve got an unflinching view. Here a man can undust his Adams apple. And in an age hell-bent on going soft, that bodes well for the backbone. appears bottom left corner.

  • Figure 1 DeconstructionCultural Level:Black and white suggests vintage, old, rustic.A bearded man suggests toughness, ruggedness.The untrimmed beard is a natural look.Age is a suggestion of experience, knowledge, and power.

  • Figure 1 DeconstructionCritical Level:

    Ad is suppose to promote the natural qualities of riding, it is mislead through the following:Text Analysis: Here a man can undust his Adams apple, implies that the brand is clearly a mans brand and the older man has power.The catch phrase implies that wind is the only hair product needed for a man when on a Harley. Phrase mocks women, implying that hair products are not a part of this brand. Age and the body type in the ad also favors the male gender and gives men power when owning a Harley Davidson.Also there is no natural quality of riding ever truly stated it is only implied through hair products.

  • Figure 2

  • Figure 2 DeconstructionLiteral Level:Vintage color to pictureMan on his HarleyAge: 45-60Beard is untrimmedWearing a leather vest, pants, and bandana. Spiked bracelet, black sunglasses, and numerous rings are also being worn.House in background is rundownGraffiti on side of the houseText, Id never let my wife ride it. At least not until shes 18.

  • Figure 2 DeconstructionCultural Level:Off color of picture suggests old, rustic, worn.A bearded man suggests toughness, ruggedness.His attire and stance also suggests this.His age is a suggestion of experience and power.The background depicts a lower class neighborhoodSuggests a tough area to live.Text suggests the power of a husband in an underage relationship.

  • Figure 2 DeconstructionCritical Level:

    The text makes a statement about underage relationships and putting it in context with the older man and his Harley Davidson.The ad is misleading stating that male toughness and power comes from a run down life (house), traditional biker attire, and having a dominant role in a relationship.Ad is also misleading the beliefs of women and relationships in regards to their husbands who own a Harley, putting forth that the wife is oppressed in the relationship and has no say.

  • Figure 3

  • Figure 3 DeconstructionLiteral Level:Black/dark theme to advertisementSupermodel Marisa Miller straddling a HarleyWearing high leather boots, cut off shorts, long dirty blonde hair draped over back and shoulders.Stance and smile very seductive Lighting of Marisa makes her stand out in advertisementMotorcycle blends into background.Text: American Supermodel V-ROD Muscle

  • Figure 3 DeconstructionCultural Level:Darkness of picture makes it very sleek and mysterious.Harley uses the supermodel as sex appeal to sell the new bike.By using the bright supermodel and the dark background the bike look modern, new, sleek, sexy, mysterious, and sought after.Text suggests an American Supermodel supports an American Brand.

  • Figure 3 DeconstructionCritical Level:The advertisement is suppose to show off a new, sleek, and sexy Harley Davidson V-ROD Muscle.It is misleading because it uses a supermodels sex appeal as a more prominent figure in the ad than the actual bike itself.The bike is supposedly the showcased item but the supermodel is the only well lit part of the picture.The motorcycle is not even fully visibleBy doing this, the ad oppresses women to be seen as sex objects used to help promote the sale of a product. The ad unintentionally gives power to men because of how the supermodel is

  • ConclusionResults for Coding Gender in Ads:Males: Powerful, strong, rugged, rigid, and tough when owning a Harley Davidson.Females: Oppressed and portrayed as sex objects.Limitations of Research:Harley Davidson is a 106 year old companyAds only focused on last 20 years.Future Research:To take a broader look at different ad campaigns and see if the trends are consistent.