Harley-Davidson Outguns Modern Life in Poetic First Ads by Droga5

Hit the open road and 'Breathe'

Can Harley-Davidson help you outrun the internet and escape the digital hassles of modern life for a while, even if just metaphorically? The bikers in "Breathe," a moody, cinematic :60 from Droga5, aim to answer that question.

Zipping through a hazy urban landscape, they appear to race against the accompanying narration, delivered by a robotic voice spewing lines like, "Keep scrolling. Be generous with likes … Keep scrolling. Stay in bed. Order food. Keep scrolling… "

Breathe | Harley-Davidson

This prattle reaches a panicky pitch as the riders escape the city: "Don't go outside! Don't leave the phone behind! Do not engage your heart, your mind … Don't ever let yourself feel this alive!"

Once they hit the open road, surrounded by nature, with the mist burning off, the voice concludes, simply: "Breathe … ride."

Filmed in and around Prague, "Breathe" draws inspiration from Claude Lelouch's 1976 experimental short "C'etait un rendez-vous," about an anonymous driver's high-speed jaunt through Paris in the wee hours.

"There is something exhilarating about feeling yourself go that fast in a closely built European city," Droga5 creative director Thom Glover tells Muse. "When the buildings have character, the stakes feel higher."

Indeed, it's a more regal, picturesque dystopia than steel-and-glass skyscrapers would convey.

Filming presented challenges, as the team strove to "recreate the feeling of what it's actually like riding a Harley-Davidson," Glover says. "When you want to create that effect for a car, you build a hood-mount for the camera. But part of the thrill of the bike is how it bends on the corners, and shudders, and how close you feel to the road."

Director of photography Matthias Koenigweiser and his team "built a number of original rigs to give the impression of single ride, some of which were mounted to the bike itself, some of which were attached to a camera vehicle, with the camera operator hanging upside down, inches behind the precision rider's back wheel at 80 mph," Glover says.

Directed by Smuggler's Jaron Albertin, the spot effectively delivers a compelling—if somewhat predictable—message. That's not really a knock, by the way. Motorcycle ads almost always depict a revitalizing journey of some sort—it's almost a given. This spot succeeds way better than most in that regard by showing a special trip well worth taking.

The same goes for its companion piece, "Magic Hour." Helmed by Epoch Films' Elena Petitti di Roreto, shooting took place in Los Angeles and at rugged Tejon Ranch, two hours outside the city.

In this :60, a male narrator adopts a quasi-mystical tone, stressing themes of freedom and spirits roaming free: "It's just you and the road, and the wind and the trees, and it fills you up."

Magic Hour | Harley-Davidson

"You're flying, but centered—lost, but found," the V.O. continues. "Every part of your body's engaged. Every part of your mind is activated. Synapses firing. Dopamine oozing. It's chemical … You feel reborn."

"Magic Hour" lacks the tension/release dynamic of "Breathe," but the accelerating stream of quasi-Beat brand-poetry provides fitting accompaniment to the scenic grandeur of Southern California's highways and byways. 

"Riding puts the whole world in your rearview and lets you think," says Droga5 copywriter Dan Litzow. "So, it made sense for us to make a film that simulates that in a way. Something easy to follow, but raw and stimulating at the same time."

In a broader sense, these commercials represent an effort by the iconic 116-year-old company to rev its image and kick-start sales following recent declines. They also mark Droga5's first major excursion for the brand since adding the business a year ago. Both ads take somewhat unexpected routes, and should engage eyeballs as the Harleys roll.

"The audience is anyone who wants more balance in their life, but doesn't necessarily feel totally comfortable with the 'green juice and yoga' definition of wellness," Glover says. "Their takeaway should be that riding a Harley-Davidson is the perfect way to leave it all behind."


Client Harley-Davidson

Agency Droga5 NY
Creative Chairman David Droga
Global Chief Creative Officer Neil Heymann
Co-Chief Creative Officer Felix Richter
Co-Chief Creative Officer Tim Gordon
Executive Creative Director Casey Rand
Executive Creative Director Kevin Brady
Creative Director Thom Glover
Creative Director Marybeth Ledesma
Associate Creative Director George McQueen
Associate Creative Director Tom McQueen
Senior Copywriter Dan Litzow
Art Director Gemma Slack
Copywriter Jenny Yoon
Art Director Maria Kouninski
Chief Design Officer Jason Severs
Group Design Director Rich Greco
Group Design Director Devin Croda
Group Experience Design Director Craig Wong
Senior User Experience Designer James Garvey
Associate Director, Experience Design Jenny Clark
Experience Designer Owen DiRienz
Junior Experience Designer Xin An
Design Director Anna Fine
Senior Designer Albie Eloy
Content Strategy Lead Louise Dreier
Content Strategy Director Paul Vogel
Senior Design Content Writer Jeremy Zerbe
Performance Writer Rob Mellinger
Design Director Mark Yoon
Senior Designer Kathryn Brylinsky
Designer Allison Lee
Chief Creation Officer Sally-Ann Dale
Director of Film Production Jesse Brihn
Associate Director of Film Production (All Films) Ruben Mercadal
Executive Producer, Film ( Breathe + Magic Hour) Gulshan Jaffery
Senior Producer, Film (Night Trails) Liliana Vega
Senior Producer, Film (Magic Hour) Jeremy Fox
Producer, Film (Magic Hour) Forrest Holt
Producer, Film (Product Films) Kelly Appleton
Co-Director of Interactive Production Tasha Cronin
& Integration Lead
Producer, Interactive Colin Neff
Producer, Interactive Aaron Matys
Associate Producer, Interactive Michelle Levitch
Associate Producer, Interactive Lauren Williams
Director of Print + Fabrication Services Rob Lugo
Director of Art Production Cliff Lewis
Associate Director of Art Production Bianca Escobar
Senior Art Producer Heather Black
Associate Director of Print + Fabrication Services Riely Clough
Executive Producer, Producer, Print Alyssa Dolman
Senior Producer, Print Rose Mahan
Junior Producer, Print Abe Nowels
Music Supervisor Mike Ladman
Senior Business Affairs Manager Whitney Vose
Global Chief Strategy Officer Jonny Bauer
Head of Strategy: New Business Will Davie
Strategy Director Grant Flannery
Senior Strategist Claudia Vitarelli
Head of Communications Strategy Dean Challis
Communications Strategy Director Kathryn Ruocco
Communications Strategist Clark Cofer
Junior Communications Strategist Soheyla Escher
Chief Intelligence Officer Amy Avery
Group Data Strategy Director Christina Fieni
Data Strategy Director Tradd Salvo
Data Strategist Greg Berard
Junior Data Strategist Shelby Lance
Group Account Director Julia Albu
Group Account Director Mike Tooley
Account Director Cara Roberts
Account Supervisor Chelsea Elliott
Account Supervisor Tim Leathart
Account Manager Hayley Howell
Associate Account Manager Lindsay Squires
Senior Project Manager Hillary Jordan
Senior Project Manager Stephanie Liu
Jr. Project Manager Amanda Cohen

Production Company (Breathe) Smuggler
Director Jaron Albertin
DOP Mattias Königswieser
Executive Producer Allison Kunzman, Patrick Milling Smith
Producer Nick Fewtrell

Service Production Company (Breathe) Unit and Sofa, Prague

(Night Trails)
DOP Adam Arkapaw
Producer Joey Zadwarny

Production Company (Magic Hour) Epoch Films
Director Elena petitti di roreto
Executive Producer Melissa Culligan
Producer Ritu Paramesh

Production Company (Product Films) Venture Visuals
Director Ryan Espinosa
Executive Producer Thomas Kranzle

Editorial (Breathe) Cut and Run NY
Editor Jonnie Scarlett
Executive Producer Ellese Shell

Editorial (Magic Hour) Exile Editing
Editor Robert Lopuski
Executive Producer Sasha Hirschfeld

Editorial (Night Trails) Work Editorial
Editor Rich Orrick
Executive Producer Erica Thompson

Editorial (Product Films) Second Child
Editor Matt Badger
Executive Producer Scott Chin

Post Production (Breathe, Night Trails, Magic Hour) The Mill
Executive Producer Andrew Somerville
Telecine (Magic Hour + Breathe) Damien Van Der Cruyssen
Telecine (Company 3 - Night Trails) Tom Poole
Creative Director Gavin Wellsman

Post Production (Product Films) Second Child
Color / VFX Second Child

Music & Sound Design (Breathe) Q Department
Creative Director Drazen Bosnjak

Sound Mix (Breathe) Sonic Union
Mixer David Papa
Senior Producer Patrick Sullivan
Studio Director Justine Cortale

Mix (Night Trails, Magic Hour) Wave Studios
Mixer Aaron Reynolds
Executive Producer Vicky Ferraro
Junior Producer Eleni Giannopoulos

Music & Sound Design (Product Films) Second Child
Mix / Sound Design Jesse Peterson

Production Company Second Child
Managing Director Scott Chinn
Senior Retoucher Natasha Kaser
Senior Retoucher Mike Vorrasi
Senior Retoucher John Clendenen
Graphics Studio Manager Virginia Vargas
Producer, Retouching Michael Mockler
Producer, Graphics Nereida Valles
Senior Editor Matthew Badger
Editor Victor Hermosillo
Design Director Pravin Chottera
Assistant Editor Simone Maurice
Assistant Editor Martin Keating
Senior Post Producer Sara Mills


Production Company Crawford & Co
Photographer Alex De Mora

Production Company Jake Mills Production
Photographer Christian Weber
Photographer Magdalena Wosinska
Photographer Jack Davison

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