IPG Creates Global Creative, Media and Digital Team for Harley-Davidson

Newly Formed Team Ignite Pulls from 'Best of the Best' Across IPG Agencies and Regions

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Harley-Davidson's 'Live Your Legend' will live on
Harley-Davidson's 'Live Your Legend' will live on Credit: Harley-Davidson via Zylstra Harley-Davidson Elk River via YouTube

Harley-Davidson has hired a newly created Interpublic Group unit named Team Ignite to handle creative, media and digital on a global and regional basis, following a competitive review.

For the review, which was supported by Accenture, Harley only invited holding company teams to pitch for the business, said Shelley Paxton, VP-global marketing and brand at Harley-Davidson. "We were not looking at the key disciplines in silos," she said. "Creative, digital and media, in my view, absolutely has to be a single strategy to live together in this day in age."

Ms. Paxton added that the company wanted a holding company team because it wanted a group of agencies that are willing to work together in an integrated fashion under the same P&L.

Team Ignite, which she said pulls "from the best of the best" within IPG, is being led by Campbell Ewald CEO Kevin Wertz, said Ms. Paxton. She added that the IPG team stood out among its competitors because of its integrated storytelling capabilities, creative excellence and great chemistry and cultural fit with the brand.

Aside from Mr. Wertz, who will also continue in his role at Campbell Ewald, Harley is not disclosing the names of other Team Ignite staffers or agencies from which the unit is pulling talent across regions. Harley's Americas region and global business will be led by Team Ignite out of Detroit, while EMEA will be spearheaded from London and Asia-Pacific out of Singapore. Ms. Paxton said the partnership will also be executed across Harley's top 12 country markets, which includes the U.S., Brazil, France, DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), Italy, UK, Australia, India, Japan and China.

"Team Ignite has the strength, experience and creativity to help Harley-Davidson grow demand and build on their substantial market leadership position. It's a great example of the 'open architecture' model we've championed at IPG for over a decade," said IPG Chairman and CEO Michael Roth in a statement.

PR, which was not part of the review, is handled by various agencies across regions. IPG's Weber Shandwick handles PR for Harley in the U.S.

With the new team in place, Harley is ending its relationship with boutique advertising shop Wolfes, based in Minneapolis. The shop co-developed the creative for the "Live Your Legend" campaign with Harley's in-house marketing team this past March. Publicis Groupe's Starcom and Digitas are also no longer on Harley's agency roster.

Ms. Paxton said she sees the brand's global "Live Your Legend" initiative having a long shelf life, with Harley building off of the campaign's "seize-the-day" mindset with the help of Team Ignite.

This year, Harley is increasing its customer-facing marketing investment by 65%, compared with 2015, largely focusing on growing the sport of motorcycling in the U.S. and boosting product and brand awareness and relevance. Harley is also increasing new product development by about 35% this year, compared with 2015. Overall, Harley is increasing its investment to drive demand by about $70 million this year.

Last week, Harley reported that its retail motorcycle sales in the U.S. were down 5.2% in Q2, year-over-year, compared to the overall U.S. motorcycle industry dropping 8.6% in the same period. The company also reported that its U.S. market share for the quarter increased two points compared to Q2 2015, and international retail sales jumped 4.3%, year-over-year.

Ms. Paxton declined to disclose budget information for Team Ignite.

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