Getting your new scooter into the hearts and minds of potential riders can’t be easy—especially with relatively new technology. In March, 2022, Yamaha Europe officially launched the NEO’s, its first electric scooter. It’s a sleek design, for sure—striking a balance between modernity and approachability, and keeping its use of lines, curves, and colors fresh. Naturally, the company also created a short advertising video to accompany the launch.
At first, it looks like it’s just going to show us how the NEO’s can fit into a busy urban commuting lifestyle. We see a woman who’s presumably just come outside into the sunshine, and she effortlessly dons a pair of sunglasses. She’s smiling. She arrives at her NEO’s, which is parked nearby, and slides what’s presumably a freshly-charged battery into its underseat bay. She gets on, and presses the RUN button to start up her NEO’s. Off she goes!
It’s sunny, and she’s wearing a jet helmet and smiling loads because clearly, she’s having a great time. There’s upbeat music playing in the background, with a catchy beat—but it’s not too fast or frenetic. It’s percolating and hypnotic, projecting the kind of feel that an urban commute might be like on a normal day. The camera moves around, and through edits, we get a selection of views of the NEO’s in motion.
Then we go back to a different view of the same woman. She’s now off the bike and wearing her yoga gear. We see her do a bunch of yoga stretching and poses, still smiling most of the time. She ends on a lunge, where she’s juxtaposed opposite the screen from the NEO’s. The text “EASY” appears above, forming a bridge between rider and scooter.
The first time I saw this video, this scene immediately irked me. While I, like most women you’ve probably ever met, don’t enjoy unsolicited suggestions that I should smile, that’s not the part that bothered me. (I mean, if you’re riding and it doesn’t bring a smile to your face, there’s probably something else wrong.) Instead, the first question that came to my mind was, “what, are we saying that the NEO’s is easy enough a lady can operate it?” It’s like those Bic For Her pens all over. Seriously, I know time is moving super strangely right now, but what year is this again?
Anyway, from there, we get a couple seconds more of this woman on her NEO’s before it transitions into the next rider. He’s a man, and he’s riding a different NEO’s. He’s smiling as well, as he wears a jet helmet and what appears to be some baggy rain gear on his scoot. It’s still a sunny day, but hey, maybe the forecast said there could be rain later. Best to be prepared, right?
The guy rides along for a bit, and then we get the break scene where he’s off his NEO’s, engaged in some other activity. This time, it’s just dancing around in his gigantic, baggy raingear—no skintight athletic gear in sight—and vague images of holographic circuitry that’s maybe a step up from the 1995 movie Hackers floating around on a green screen behind him. He’s smiling, and happy, and goofy, and striking poses here and there. At the end, the word SMART appears overhead, visually connecting him on the left side of the screen with the NEO’s on the right side of the screen. This guy, he’s obviously s m a r t!
Sure, the intention might be to indicate that the Yamaha NEO’s is both an easy and smart choice for anyone who wants to ride it—but that’s not what you’re showing us. Instead, what you’re showing us feels strangely reductive, particularly for 2022. It’s a super weird vibe, and as I said when discussing this in the RideApart newsroom, I noted all this as a person who was probably biased toward liking this scooter and wishing we got it in my country. What is even happening here, Yamaha?
In the interest of completeness, I’ll also note that there’s a third rider we see a little later. She’s a different woman rider, and she smiles a bit less than both of the first two riders. After a pause that seems somehow shorter than the first two, she eventually gets the word COOL overhead. It seems more difficult to read than the first two words, maybe because she almost completely blends into the background and your brain is busy trying to figure out what’s going on. In any event, I was so stunned by what happened with the first two riders, I probably didn’t even notice her until the fourth time I watched this ad.
At the end of the video, all three of these riders are hanging out, and everyone’s once again grinning their faces off. Cool, you’re happy with your NEO’s and your friends, and of course that’s awesome. Still, there were some super strange, weirdly sexist choices made in putting this ad together. What do you think?