Top 10 TV motorcycle ads

The funniest TV bike ads

TV ADVERTS are usually little more than annoying interruptions, but on occasion the ad men prove they’re capable of making witty, clever or simply insane creations that truly grab your attention and stick in the memory.

These days it’s rare to see a bike advertised on TV at all, at least in the UK, but that’s not always been the case, and the wonder that kids today call ‘the internet’ means it’s now possible to trawl through time and space to see bike ads from other eras and other countries.

Of course, it’s something of a mystery as to (a) who would have originally recorded these ads, presumably on video, and kept them for posterity and (b) who would then opt to convert them to digital format and upload them to the web for all to see. But clearly people do it, and their obvious overabundance of free time means there’s something there to fill a few minutes of yours.

You probably won’t agree with all our picks for the best 10 bike ads, so please feel free to make your own suggestions.

Each headline is a link to the relevant video.

10: Madness and the Motocompo

Remember that episode of the Simpsons where Homer discovers his image is being used as ‘Mr Sparkle’ on a Japanese advert? Well in real life the country’s can seem are just as odd, none more so than this Honda effort featuring Madness and a Motocompo. Okay, strictly speaking the firm is advertising the City car (which the Motocompo scooter was designed to fit inside), but the bike makes an appearance nonetheless. Oh, and the pure '80s-ness of Honda’s ads got even more intense in 1986 when the firm used Grace Jones to inexplicably push the pop-up-headlight Spacy scooter

9: John Travolta on a Honda

These days it would probably cost a couple of yachts to get John Travolta to plug your product, but back in 1974 Honda used the then-unknown aspiring actor to be the face of its US-market bike commercials. Complete with an intensely chirpy soundtrack and saccharine sentiment that was at odds with the prevalent image of bikes at the time, these ads helped Honda break into the mainstream in the states.

8: Kawasaki ZX-12R vs the Porsche

Given the ever-increasing difficulty in illustrating speed in adverts – something that’s become almost impossible today – Kawasaki’s ZX-12R must have been a tricky one to come up with ideas for. After all, speed was pretty much all it was built for. So showing how it terrified a Porsche was a clever solution to the problem. Other ads at the time like this and this did it without even showing the bike at all.

7: Kawasaki ZX-6R speed trap

Surely this must be the work of the same ad minds as the one above, although in this case they’re not so shy about showing some real speed. While you’re killing time, check out the second in the same series here.

6: Bajaj Pulsar. No, really.

We've been steering clear of the clichéd wheelies-and-knee-down promo films (as well as the even more tired ‘riding-off-into-the-sunset, freedom-and-individuality’ tropes that every ad agency seems to turn to when faced with a motorcycle to promote, usually accompanied with a ‘Born to be Wild’ soundtrack), but this one makes the grade because it shows better riding than most, and does it all on the least likely of bikes.

5: Aprilia’s rhythm magazine

Remember when porn came in magazines instead of on the internet? The original RSV Mille dates back to those days, although we doubt that most Aprilia owners would like to be associated with the particular sexual preferences of the lead character in this ad.

4: GSX-R1000 and the dog

Another of those adverts that dates back to the days when it was permissible to attempt to associate performance with motorcycles, throwing in a bit of humour along the way. Can you imagine the tabloid ‘ban this killer death bike’ response and tidal wave of faux outrage from the Twitterati if an ad like this was shown on British TV today? And to think it was only around a decade ago that you were allowed to smirk at stuff like this.

3: Aprilia ‘real bikes’

You've got to admire the fact they chose a toy Ducati as the object of derision in this ad. It doesn’t appear to have actually swayed many buyers, if sales figures of Aprilias compared to Ducatis are anything to go by, though.

2: Norwegian road safety ad

Motorcycle road safety campaigns are usually pretty tough watching – after all, the slaughter of a group of road users isn’t really the sort of subject that easily lends itself to comedy. But this Norwegian effort bucks the trend and sticks in the mind rather better than the far more earnest ads that we usually end up getting fed.

1: Triumph Rocket III viral

We've broken the rules slightly here, since this was never a TV ad but a viral internet video. But it’s arguably the funniest promotional vid ever made for a motorcycle by any manufacturer, which is all the more surprising since Triumph is usually very serious about its image. We especially like Triumph's 'resident gurning fool'.

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