QuikTrip Viral Marketing Disaster

As the commercial so blindly states: “Come on, bike boy!” Or, maybe in this instance, it should be Come on, marketer boy!

If you haven’t seen it yet, the folks at QuikTrip are airing a commercial that features a [rather slovenly] cyclists who is holding up traffic as he rides in a slow and seemingly care-free manner. The camera cuts between the frustrated driver, the cyclist, and back to the perturbed motorist. Eventually, with horns blaring, the driver says it, “Come on, bike boy!

Funny? Maybe at first. But, almost before the laughing stops, the real travesty of this commercial hits: the imagery and attitudes only exacerbates the tension between drivers and cyclists. Did QT marketers not consider this while making this one? Or, does QT not care that they may lose the cycling community as customers?

In the past, I’ve been impressed with QT’s marketing. The commercials, pump-toppers, heck, even the cups, have a very real sense of urgency and directness. Only QT can make hot dog roller grill food appetizing! What happened with this one?

At first I thought I was being sensitive to this because it crosses my world twice: marketing and cycling. But, today KansasCyclist posted the video on Facebook, with the questions: “Funny? Offensive? Hit a little too close to home, perhaps? Do you think it promotes/excuses road rage against cyclists?” The ensuing conversation proves that it’s not just me. People are talking about this one. How long before this becomes the next viral disaster?

How good are your social listening skills, QT?

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23 comments

  1. Sorry some of our fans were offended. There are two sides to every situation. This spot is about a sharing the road. Obviously the cyclist is so engrossed in his workout that he is oblivious to the frustrated drivers on there way to work. That is selfish and deserves to be criticized and made fun of. Though the majority of the cycling community is very aware of their need to share the road, you occasionally find someone that feels that they are somehow better and more important than there fellow human beings and they hog the road because they can. The same can be said of aggressive drivers, of course. The point of the commercial isn’t to pick on any group of people, but if you get yourself it a situation like that you can just cool it because QT has a solution.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Brad. While I appreciate QT’s (and Richards) intent to position QT as a solution to a [bad] situation, this commercial (and even worse, your justifications) only worsen a growing problem. Search the headlines for road rage between drivers and cyclists; even worse, check the DOT for information on crashes between cars and bikes. That’s not intended to say the cars are the bad guy here; rather that this is a growing problem.

    For you and the others at Richards to pick on the stereotype that cyclists are oblivious to cars is simply sad. Bicycle advocacy promote responsibility for both parties. (Common sense tells cyclists to avoid interferring with cars as much as possible!) Granted, there are equal numbers of “bad” bicyclists and motorists. However, those tend to be the minority. You glorify a stereotype that does nothing but provoke negative attitudes.

    Here’s one comment to your commercial that I found out in the blogosphere:
    “However, the essential problem here in the good ole USA is that riders are viewed as self absorbed, obstructionist twits or genuine threats to the fabric of society.” – http://bit.ly/968rFY

    Your commercial only exaggerates this sentiment. Thank you for portraying cycists as self-engrossed idiots. Hopefully QT will realize the error in airing this commercial and stop airing it.

  3. This ad is one-sided, and only portrays the cyclist negatively. Certainly there are self-absorbed cyclists–but they’re the same people who would be self-absorbed if they were behind the wheel of a car. Since there are more cars on the road than bikes, it stands to reason that there will simply be a larger quantity of self-absorbed motorists on the road than cyclists. Where is the motorist applying makeup or shaving or clipping her toenails (all things I’ve personally witnessed a person doing while driving a car)? Where is the rubbernecker driver who just has to slow down while passing a 5-car pileup as they pry the passengers from the wreck? Where is the “annoying” group of kids trying to cross the road on foot to get to school?

    The ad is not clever; it does not take cleverness to grab a stereotype and extend it with gross hyperbole. QT’s marketing agency fails, and QT itself fails for approving such an ad.

  4. It’s definitely not just you — this commercial is plain ignorant for all the reasons you state. Even if I weren’t a cyclist, I wouldn’t find this commercial entertaining; it’s poorly done all around. I’ve already written to QT and asked them to remove this commercial, but they should also issue a formal retraction. Cyclists are usually also drivers at some point, and we have choices about where we buy our gas.

    Also, if the driver is sitting in a car in the morning, sitting at a desk all day, and then sitting in the car again, does he really need to be stopping for pastries?

  5. Cyclist as dirty, messy, peace-sign-flashing hippie, wearing horribly-clashing spandex, weaving slowly up what is obviously an expressway on-ramp (where cyclists are forbidden to begin with). No, not a stereotype at ALL.

    Oh, wait yes it is – an amalgamation of every negative stereotype that self-entitled drivers have of cyclists – Grizzly Adams beard, fully load panniers…and yeah, “working out.”

    All the while reenforcing the self-entitlement of raging people who think that the because their car can go faster, that gives them the right to marginalize cyclists and pedestrians by passing too close, cutting them off, honking, screaming and throwing tantrums and beer bottles, or just threatening their very existence by driving while eating donuts and scratching off lottery tickets purchased at Quik Trip.

    And then you condescend to say that your spot is a social commentary on sharing the road?? Do you think we’re stupid? As if Quik Trip cares about anything more than supplying donuts and lottery tickets to distracted drivers.

    The road doesn’t just belong to cars.

  6. I certainly don’t know the total body count for bicyclists killed in Oklahoma this year by distracted/ drunk/ careless drivers, but I know of at least five killed and others injured.

    The commercial is either stupid or malicious, take your pick. Perhaps the next victim of bad driving (or their survivors) will consider QT as a codefendant for fostering a hostile environment against bicyclists.

    What do you think of that “QT boy”?

  7. Ken:

    The NTSB releases various accident data, including bicycle accidents. Unfortuantely, the data is typically greater than 12 months old–need time to compile the information. Here’s a link to the 2008 data, which was released in 2010: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pubs/811156.pdf

    Here’s the 2008 data for Oklahoma (US Total):

    • Total Traffic Fatalities: 749 (37,261)
    • Residential Population: 3,642,000 (304,060,000)
    • Pedalcyclists Fatalities: 4 (716)
    • Percentage of Total: 0.5 (1.9)
    • Pedalcyclist Fatalities per Million Population: 1.10 (2.35)

    It will be interesting to see how Oklahoma’s number change between 2008 and 2010, consider Oklahoma passed in 2006 the bicycle law that imposed, among other things, a minimum safe passing distance of 3 feet. Despite the good intent of the law , this news story suggests that it has not been effective: http://bit.ly/auKl6w

    “In Oklahoma [in 2010], the number of riders involved in bicycle accidents is rising.”

    While this conversation started to discuss “Bicycle Boy” and QT’s oversight in airing it, the underlying message is bicycle advocacy, and the rights and responsibilities of riding a bicycle on the roadways. I doubt QT will do anything other than maybe shortening the run time or pulling the ad–there won’t be any “Hey Bicyclists! We’re sorry about that. Stop into any QT for a free doughnut as a sign of our sincere apology” message coming from them. What we, as bicyclists, should do is ensure that we promote a positive image. That means following the rules of the road, being visible and predictable, and considering traffic. It goes without saying: always wear a helmet!

    1. I agree about the underlying issue and certainly don’t see a QT doughnut in my future.

      What struck me when I saw this video is that this wasn’t some local access channel run amuck with the lone commercial guy making a poor choice about a used car lot ad. This was a big production that had to cost some serious money. That means a bunch of folks saw this, worked on it, and *nobody* saw a problem with it. According to Brad, some real live bicyclists were consulted; really???

      “QT Rage Boy” is the real root problem with this ad. Substitute just about any other entity for the bicyclist and there’s still a problem.

    1. Mike: pretty frustrating to see that the video has been removed from YouTube. I searched Google but couldn’t find it. Are QT and Richards finally responding to all the “social” pressure???

    2. The commercial has been removed from YouTube. If you are in the Kansas City area it is usually shown during the morning newscast on Fox4. I’ve also seen it played on channel 5 news in the evenings.

  8. Mike: pretty frustrating to see that the video has been removed from YouTube. I searched Google but couldn’t find it. Are QT and Richards finally responding to all the “social” pressure???

  9. I am working on a trail map of Kansas city bike trails and proximity to food services. Qt will be removed and I will stop my almost daily gas and beverage runs. Such disrespect! I hope the cyclist in the ad also stops shopping at qt.

  10. I sent a complaint to QT via email. The response was a very generic “We did not intend to offend anyone, we just wanted to get viewers attention”. There are literally a thousands ways to get viewers attention that QT would never consider to be in good tatse or appropriate. It is sad that they did not see the problem with this ahead of time. Fortunately, there are plenty of other stores other than QT for me to patronize.

  11. People need to lighten up, I’m an avid biker in KC. That commercial brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes you have to know when to laugh, you know the whole world’s not always out to get you. Besides the whole planet going down the toilet and there aint a thing we can do about it might as well smile a little.

  12. I love the commercial! Why would anyone take offense to it? How do you make it through day to day life? If people would stop being so shocked, they would see how insane the driver is as well. Lighten up, if you don’t like it, don’t watch it

    If I offended anyone with my stance on this, please accept my sincere apology.

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