Friday, November 10, 2006

The Vespa's Nest

I graduated with a degree in advertising. Some people I've told this to have smiled politely and said they didn't even know it was possible to get a college degree in that. Well, yes, I am here to tell you, it is possible. You'll recognize us because we're the ones who watch the Super Bowl to get to the ads. I've been passionate about the ad world ever since I was a little kid decorating my room not with posters of Kirk Cameron (I'm an 80s kid), but with my favorite ads ripped from magazines. Although I decided to forgo the field for various reasons after working as a copywriter for a brief time, the passion hasn't ever left me. That's why, when I saw this campaign, I couldn't resist sharing it with you.

I fell in love with this campaign by The Ad Store in NYC, whose other headlines include "Relieve Gas Pains" and "Don't Be a Gas-Hole." The campaign came out in late 2005, and I find it interesting how Vespa (Italian for "wasp") is trying to sell to the US market. Do you think that this could be successful? Taking the tactic of pitching the Vespa as an alternative to high gas prices? I like the idea, but I am wondering if it's practical or not. Would your average American buy a Vespa, and is the average American commute suitable for a scooter?

Average, of course, is a term up for wide interpretation. The campaign is most likely targeted just at New Yorkers, and in fact, in this op-ed piece from the New York Times that I found on the Vespaway blog, it seems like New Yorkers are jumping on the wasp, but running up against some growing pains as they try to enter into the US city mainstream. And what age range is your typical Vespa buyer? An article from Business Week in October 2005 says that although Piaggio, Vespa's manufacturer, thought the Vespa would appeal mainly to a 20-something crowd, it turns out that over a quarter of the US market is made up by consumers age 50 and over.

Here in Rome, the Vespa really is an alternative to high gas prices and traffic jams, but it's a city scooter and can't go on the freeways. I read that they have come out with a large 250cc model, but at that point it's really not the traditional Vespa anymore, at least not in my mind, and is more of a motorcycle. The Wikipedia article has a long list of celebrity Vespa riders. I wonder if perhaps it isn't more of a trendy thing in the US, some kind of status symbol. Do you think the Vespa might ever really break past the barrier of a novelty item in the States, and go mainstream? Is it a solution to fighting high gas prices? If you don't live in the US or Italy, what's the Vespa situation like in your country?

13 comments:

Stelle In Italia said...

I remember seeing some similar vespa ads back in the states when i was home too, and they were pretty cute. i don't know how likely it is vespas will sell there to anything but a novelty market at this point (which must explain the reason 50s and over are buying it, instead of young people who might benefit more from the low cost and ease of use). interesting to think about though--perhaps renting out scooters in downtown san francisco would work as well as renting out scooters in downtown rome? it's an idea...

rowena said...

Vespas in the states? hmmmm...When I still lived on the islands I had one of those pricey Hondo mopeds to scoot around when the idea just began. One day I was out with my friends - they on real bicycles, me on the moped - If a guy didn't just shout out at me, "Hey! You're CHEATING!" :-P

Regarding the comment about your cat, what kind of cat is he/she?

Cecilia said...

Up until we moved to Milan (a month ago) we had a Vespa in Chicago, we loved it so much that we were sad to put it away in the winter and could not wait to take it out again in the sping. It was the perfect way to get around the pesky, extra large SUVs that over crowd the streets :).

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Stelle: Do they rent scooters in downtown Rome? (I mean, besides the shops that rent them to tourists... is there a program that the city has for residents?) I saw Segways for rent for tourists, but I haven't really seen anyone using them...

Rowena: At the shelter they told me he's a tabby, but he's "randaggio" so probably a mix. One thing's for sure, he is fat! :-) Indoor cat and neutered so that explains it.

Cecilia: Ale and I fell in LOVE with Chicago when we visited a couple years ago; it's now one of our favorite US cities. It must have been such fun riding a Vespa there.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Shelley, I'm starting to see more Vespas in L.A. esp. the Santa Monica/Venice area. The riders tend to be young "hipsters" and I assume most own a car as well. It's really tough to live here without a car. I think the campaign is cool and NYC would be a perfect place to have one.

stacy said...

Ive actually seen some Vespas in downtown Dallas. Shocking as that is! I'd totally get one if I lived in a more urban area. Gonna have one when we move to Italy.hehe

Anonymous said...

I would love to have a Vespa, but my time to use it would be limited. Riding around in a Vespa when it's -44 below just doesn't seem attractive to me...Lol. I think places like NY,Chicago (Where it also gets cold!)and L.A. are probably better for Vespa's. I just hop on my good ole' Trek mountain bike for 3 months out of the year. I wouldn't mind trading it in for a Vespa though....Smart cars are coming to the U.S. in 2007. This might be a great alternative!

Anonymous said...

When I worked in San Francisco (up until 3 1/2 years ago) I saw Vespas parked around town pretty regularly. And this was before gas prices were as astronomical as they are now. (Hello, $2.50 is NOT a bargain, even though the whore on the news may say so.)

But if you live or work anywhere other than SF in the Bay Area, I'd think they'd be more along the lines of what Stelle was saying - a novelty.

For now, though, I'll rock the Prius and keep my walnut safe from smashing by all the lunatic SUVs roaming our streets.

African Kelli said...

I would LOVE to have me a Vespa. I think they are so fun! And actually becoming quite popular in Tempe. Super cute. And you are right -- great ad.

anton said...

Ah yes, Seattle has "gangs" of vespa and moped riders! They are more clubs than anything and very amusing to see on the streets. Please check out this article as proof: http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/0642/mopeds.php

ekimrue said...

Vespa's in Seattle....I commute everyday by ferry across Puget Sound to Seattle and I agree with Anton....I am starting to see more and more of them. The first time that I saw a middle aged woman on one I had flash-backs of Rome.

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

NYC: Funny about the hipster thing. I can see that though. I mean, in LA, you eventually need a car to get around once you're out of the downtown, right?

Stacy: Even Dallas? Vespa with a Texas accent! ;-)

Ebony: LOL! You'd be like that scene from Dumb and Dumber, remember? When they freeze?

Fin: We love the PREEE-OOOS!!

Kel: You would be sooo cute on a Vespa, but if I were you I'd stick to your ruby red beauty queen. Plus I don't think they let Vespas into Triathlons!!

Anton: You're in Seattle?! We'll be out in December. Can I bring you some Roman coffee? :-)

Ekimrue (AKA "Mio Padre"): Admit it, I know you're next. And no, it WON'T fit in the overhead bin.

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