Kawasaki is this year celebrating 50 years in the U.S. market, and to celebrate it has been sharing a number of highlights from the past decades.

During its first 50 years in the United States, Kawasaki came up with some inventive ad programs to promote the products. One campaign was called The Hangouts, featuring illustrations of well-known motorcyclist hangouts around the country, with two-page ads created around riders congregating there. As one of the earliest forms of social media, the ads were run months ahead of time, announcing the exact location and date and enticing riders to come.

The campaign was conceived by Scott Young, the Executive Creative Director at Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon and Eckhardt.

You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant.

“Motorcycling is only partly about bikes and how you feel on them; it’s also about sharing with other people,” he explained. “The idea was to find a series of places where motorcyclists hang out, and then write about what it would be like to be there. Since the ads were set in the future, no photos were available, so we hired illustrator Bruce Wolfe to portray them.”

The first Hangout event took place at Marcus Dairy in Danbury, Connecticut, on April 16, 1989. No one at Kawasaki knew how it would turn out, but what happened exceeded expectations as over 7,500 riders arrived, attracting coverage by the New York Times. Other locations would include Alice’s Restaurant near San Francisco, California; the Old Spanish Trail Restaurant in Bandera, Texas; the Logan Inn in New Hope, Pennsylvania; and the Lookout Roadhouse near Lake Elsinore, California.

About six events were held per year during riding season, with a unique Wolfe painting and Young’s experiential copy anchoring each ad. The paintings were also reprinted as posters, available for purchase at Kawasaki dealerships. Although the first Kawasaki “hangouts” were truly free-flow affairs, later in the campaign, KMC added hospitality and test rides to directly connect attendees with Kawasaki products.

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