In ’62, American Honda sold 40,000 motorcycles through its 750-dealer network. When management set a target of 200,000 units the following year, Honda’s ad agency, Grey, knew they had their work cut out for them.
Grey’s creative types proposed a set of print ads showing students, women and couples – not the “typical” motorcyclists – on Honda’s 50cc step-through Cub. The ads proclaimed, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”. In 1964 Grey produced a “nicest people” TV ad that ran during the Academy Awards.
The campaign not only launched Honda in the U.S. market, it redeemed the image of motorcycling as a whole.
Try as I might, I can't find that first, 'nicest people' TV ad anywhere. If anyone can get their hands on a digitized version, please post it to YouTube. Honda continued to play on those general themes into the '70s, with this commercial starring a pre-Scientology John Travolta...
...and this one in which riding god Malcolm Smith portrays a friendly (but not too friendly!) priest.
These commercials are, to be sure, the products of a different time. But where's the OEM that will step up again in this dark hour for the industry, with a new-rider campaign anywhere near as successful as 'nicest people'?