This weekend is Super Bowl XLVIII, and there are going to be two topics of conversation: football and advertising. While it’s pretty unlikely that Vespa or any of the other main scooter manufacturers will buy any airtime during the big game this year, we thought it’d be a great time to share some vintage Vespa ads. Maybe if the Super Bowl was as big a deal back in the Mad Men era, ads like these would have played during the game. Vespa shared all three of these vintage ads for the 50cc on their official YouTube channel, but we’ve embedded them here for easy viewing.
What’s particularly interesting about these vintage Vespa ads is the care-free attitude. Everything is centered around fun – the pure and simple joy of bombing around on a little scooter. A Vespa is a party. A Vespa is a date. A Vespa is the happiest little steel pony you’ll ever ride. Before anything else, the sheer un-ironic enthusiasm of these ads really dates them. We’d never see something this sincere today, and that’s kind of a shame.
While Vespa advertising of today is quite a bit more subdued, the subtext is very similar. The fun factor is still there, but the biggest shift is a more subtle realignment of the marque toward much more of a high fashion brand. Take a look at this Vespa PX ad from 2011.
The first act of the ad actually references a couple of the ads we’ve shared today. Yet on viewing this contemporary commercial, it’s tough to tell which they’re trying to sell harder: the PX or the Vespa-branded clothing and helmets all models are wearing. There’s no bouncing through a field giggling as you go. Instead it’s about looking chic, and how your Vespa fits into your life as yet another fashion accessory.
Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In a modern world of mass transit and cheaper, downmarket alternatives, “premium” is probably a sustainable niche for Vespa. Riding a brand that’s still very well grounded in its vintage roots (Vespa is still making their chassis out of stamped steel, after all) has a definite appeal. People are willing to pay for fashionable, premium items, and sometimes that includes a scooter.
Of late, Vespa has taking this thinking near its breaking point, however, offering the stunning 946 at nearly $10,000. No longer the brand of cheap transport for the masses, Vespa has repositioned itself as the premium scooter brand. The question remains, however, is this a sustainable strategy for Vespa? One key indicator may come this spring, when scooter season in America and Europe opens in earnest. With the 946 already on the showroom floor at many dealers, when the weather warms up, will they sell?
In the mean time, here’s a look into the past. Enjoy.