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How Harley-Davidson’s ‘Nice To Be Naughty’ campaign cut through the pre-Christmas clutter


How Harley-Davidson’s ‘Nice To Be Naughty’ campaign cut through the pre-Christmas clutter


In the lead-up to the festive season, 303 MullenLowe revisits Harley-Davidson’s #NiceToBeNaughty campaign, which successfully found an audience of over 1.5 million people in the pre-Christmas rush last year – without a dollar spent on TV. The success of #NiceToBeNaughty demonstrates that if brands invest in relevant creative, they won’t have to work twice as hard to sell it.


Campaign: #NiceToBeNaughty

Client: Harley-Davidson Australia & New Zealand

Agency: 303 MullenLowe



Last December, Harley-Davidson Australia and 303MullenLowe collaborated to produce a short film about two disgruntled elves complaining about Santa and his unreasonable deadlines.

“I can’t take this anymore!” says one elf to his friend. “If I see one more teddy bear, I’m gonna snap. I can’t stand their stupid fluffy faces.”

The elves decide to ignore Santa’s orders to sew 10,000 more teddy bears in time for Christmas, and instead start designing a badass custom trike to give to a deserving kid who’s just naughty enough to miss out on making Santa’s nice list.

Their one-of-a-kind tricycle is custom-made from the ground up and pays homage to the well-known “chopper” style of motorcycles, which Harley-Davidson led during the ‘70s, even sporting a peanut gas tank.

Over six weeks, 303 MullenLowe and Harley-Davidson created three video instalments, beginning with the original #NiceToBeNaughty film on 7 December, which kicked off a competition to find a not-too-naughty kid worthy of winning Harley’s badass tricycle.

The campaign culminated in a follow-up film starring the winner of the competition, four year-old Charlotte Russell, which launched on Facebook on Christmas Eve.

Over the previous 12 months or more, Harley-Davidson had begun to invest more in social channels, using 303 MullenLowe’s proprietary tools and algorithms to track the performance of its digital investments. Harley’s marketing team is also structured so it can act on opportunities and generate content quickly enough to stay relevant.

Together, both Harley and 303 MullenLowe learned so much in the process of growing Harley Davidson’s social following through the #NiceToBeNaughty campaign.

The response was huge. Here’s how we did it.



Harley-Davidson has enjoyed success with Facebook video and link ads in the past, but the benchmark had never exceeded 500,000 video views.

Our goal was to tip Harley-Davidson over the one million view mark and accrue the most engagements and website clicks on one single piece of content ever.

This was not a push to sell bikes, but a chance to promote the brand in general by giving back to the audience.



Christmas is the noisiest time of year for advertising. Every brand wants a piece of the action, so we needed to find a way to be relevant with a limited budget.

Harley-Davidson also needed to find a way to address a macro business challenge. How could they create a viral piece of content that appeals to both their core audience and young urban or prospective riders?

Our strategy was to become hyper relevant in the lead up to Christmas by tapping into counter-culture, using anti-Santa elves to give away a customised tricycle.

We wanted to speak directly to our target audience via interest targeting on Facebook, and capture qualified leads for re-marketing. We knew the content spoke strongly to parents, so we created a targeting strategy on Facebook to reach them.

We were also able to learn what messages resonated with our target audience by split-testing the video post copy. From here the hashtag #NiceToBeNaughty was coined.




When we stumbled upon the idea for a Christmas competition spearheaded by rebellious elves, the scripts wrote themselves.

We were able to pull the shoot together very quickly, working with Curious Film to direct a two-minute video and upload it to Facebook on 7 December, followed by a short video encouraging entries to the competition.

We then had a few weeks to find a naughty-yet-nice kid to deliver the tricycle to before Christmas, with a third video uploaded on Christmas Eve.



In the first 48 hours, supported through social content on Instagram and Twitter, Harley’s #NiceToBeNaughty campaign achieved more than 400,000 views on Facebook.

Within two weeks, # NiceToBeNaughty had acquired more than one million video views, more than 36,000 engagements and 1,200 entries.

So what did we learn from this campaign?

We learned that content needs to be of the web, not on the web, tapping into the social zeitgeist – in Harley’s case, tapping into counter-culture and a rebellious attitude.  Instead of giving away fluffy toys for Christmas, we designed a customised badass trike.

Many brands try to squeeze their message into an ad, and spend a fortune to have it reach audiences. But if you make good creative with a purpose, then your content will thrive.

Brands need to have utility, and that’s how Harley-Davidson rose above the noise with #NiceToBeNaughty. It wasn’t another Christmas ad: our video had the purpose of giving away a tricycle to someone deserving. As a result of that purpose, we set a new benchmark for Harley’s Facebook campaigns.

#NiceToBeNaughty also made it into the L’ADN top 15 Christmas campaigns of 2015. Sharing company with the likes of John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and Walmart, it was the only nominee from Australia & New Zealand, which – considering it was likely created with a far smaller budget – is no mean feat.




Adam Wright: Director marketing

David Turney: Advertising, promotions and PR manager

Hareni Nimalan: Advertising and promotions coordinator

303Lowe Sydney

Richard Morgan: Executive creative director

Brad Morris: Managing partner, digital and innovation

Matthew Clarke: Managing partner

Raoul Gundelach: Senior business manager

Simon Jackson and David Biddle: Copywriters

Sal Cavallaro: Art director

Louise Reimnitz: TV producer

Susie Shaw: Content manager

Production: Curious film

Producer and director: Ben Swaffer




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