Discussion: Teaser campaigns spoil bike shows

As we traipse the show halls once more, can anything actually live up to its hype?

IT’S that time of year again. The endless teaser campaigns have reached their crescendo and we’re finally getting to see the subjects of all that kerfuffle as the sheets are drawn back from another year’s new crop of two-wheeled wonders.

Sadly though, the whole rigmarole of new model launches is becoming such a well-oiled hype machine that it’s increasingly difficult to be amazed by a new bike; to find something that’s been kept a real secret until its launch and then has specifications or styling that really moves the game on. And I long for that sense of wonder and amazement again. Bike shows used to be a bit like Christmas as a kid; you knew that there would be presents under the tree, and you might have had a few hopes or wishes as to what might be in those boxes, but the excitement was all about the mystery. These days my wife asks me what I want, then buys it. It’s still nice to get a present, but when you know exactly what it’s going to be, the anticipation and excitement is naturally dulled.

Remember back when the original Yamaha R1 appeared at shows in late 1997? I seem to remember there was a distinct ‘thud’ as a room full of jaws hit the floor when the covers came off. Yes, it had been seen in spy shots, but right up until the official unveiling most people expected it to be a new YZF750, not a 1000cc machine. And in those days the claim of 150bhp was enough to set tongues wagging in pubs throughout the world. Riding the same bike in 1998 was another of those eye-opening moments, that realisation that the game had changed and it was going to take a while for the rest to catch up.

There have been plenty of machines since that have upped the standards of the game, but I think I’ve pinned down what it was; it was one of the last amazing launches of an analogue era. A pre-internet teaser campaign age, when manufacturers employed security staff to keep their secrets, not social media experts to help disseminate them in the most advantageous way possible.

When I first heard that Ducati was going to make a new Scrambler, a year or so ago, I was quite excited at the prospect. But there were no secrets left by the time the covers came off. The response could have been “Wow, that’s an interesting new direction to be taking!” Instead it was “What else have you got that’s new?”

Had Kawasaki simply waited until the world’s press was assembled in Cologne and said: “Tada! Here’s our new supercharged H2!” I reckon even the most cynical journos would have taken a second or two to gather up their lower mandibles. Instead they gave it all away beforehand with way too many cryptic teaser videos. They got some extra coverage but gave away the chance of that seared-in-the-memory moment that could have lived on in legend for years, even decades.

Somewhere in many of us still resides the kid who had bike posters on his bedroom walls and my message to the manufacturers is this: your social marketing is like showing that kid where his parents have hidden the Christmas presents. It gives a momentary thrill, and it’s impossible not to peek, but it totally spoils the big day.

Or maybe you still find them as interesting as ever?