What, exactly, is a Motaur?
Imagine the mystical imagery that surrounds the half-human, half-horse creatures in Greek mythology. Now, take that imagery and apply it to the 2019 landscape. The Motaur (pronounced MO-TOUR) was conceived by ad agency Arnold Worldwide for Progressive Insurance. His entire being seemingly derives from Greek mythological narratives. Motaur is half man, half motorcycle, and unapologetically proud to be one with his bike.
“Do You Mind”
Watch the commercial spot for “Do You Mind” closely. Motaur has paused at a gas station in the middle of the desert. A man driving a more conventional automobile hesitantly drums up the courage to ask, “Do you mind being a Motaur?”
“What could be better than being a Motaur?” The Progressive icon neatly replies. He follows up with a question of his own for the human being, “Do you mind not being a Motaur?”
“I do,” A young man sitting in the idling truck’s passenger seat quietly mumbles. He appears to secretly long for a Motaur lifestyle of his own.
Making A Motaur
The joy in watching Progressive’s Motaur commercials is how the character so deftly turns the tables on the often-stunned passerbys. The Progressive Insurance campaign has turned its attention to motorcyclists and how riders become one with their bikes. In the case of the Motaur, he is truly one with his bike.
But, where did the idea for the Motaur come from? Sean McBride, EVP, Executive Creative Director at Arnold Worldwide, gave us a look at Motaur’s creation. He also revealed the “Centocycle” the Motaur could have been, and what it takes to film a Progressive commercial so far from home. (We’ll come a long way from the suburban homes Progressive icons Flo and Big Jim typically occupy.)
Interview With Sean McBride
AW: What is a Motaur? Where did the inspiration for the character come from? What does the mascot advertise for Progressive specifically?
Sean McBride: I think Motaur reflects two fundamental things we know about riders. One, is that riders are a different breed and proud of that fact. They’re outsiders, and they relish that role. And two, that — all things being equal – riders would rather be riding at all times.
AW: What is the story behind the name “Motaur?” What does it mean?
Sean McBride: Motaur is the motorcycle version of a centaur. He’s half man, half bike. It was either that or Centocycle. We did go down a massive pronunciation rabbit hole. We flip-flopped between “Mo-Tar” or “Mo-Tour” before finally consulting the dictionary pronunciation. This was something we talked about way, way too much.
AW: Given the Motaur’s centaur-esque appearance, do you have a mythological backstory to accompany the character?
Sean McBride: Yes! Motaur’s mom worked on the assembly line at Harley Davidson. One day, when trying to fix a scratch on a V-Twin soft tail, she fell into a vat of radioactive chrome… I’m kidding. Nah. He’s a mysterious wise sage of the road. His backstory is that he has no backstory.
AW: Were there any challenges associated with filming these ads, given the unique look of the character? How did this process go about, especially since the ads take place on the road?
Sean McBride: It was snowing in the LA desert that week, so that wasn’t optimal. Our talent Terrence had to stand/kneel in a weird rig wearing a sheet metal cummerbund for the better part of two days.
Harold Einstein directed, and he and his crew were amazing. He used words like “elevated.” We nodded and went along for the ride.
The Future Of The Motaur
AW: We’ve seen commercials for “Wishes” and “Do you mind?” where the Motaur expresses pride in being a Motaur. Where is the icon heading next? Will there be more Motaurs to come, like a proper motorcycle gang? Or, will he be the lone Motaur on the road?
Sean McBride: We were definitely thinking of these spots as an introduction to Motaur. We were thoughtful about saying his name on camera, and starting to frame out who he is who he isn’t.
His comfort in his own skin/metal was a big part of it. It sounds hokey, but being yourself and doing whatever the heck you want is a big part of riding culture. Regarding a gang, at the moment we like the idea of Motaur being a solitary figure. Plus, gangs are scary. As far as where he’ll go next, only the wind knows. Oh, and us. We also know.