Hands painted to look like a globe

Can advertising change the world?

So far this year, Audi and Nike stepped into the sociopolitical fray with campaigns focused on equality. Both have received cheers and jeers for their efforts, but as an American watching many of our democratic ideals be flushed down the toilet recently, I say this sort of aspirational advertising is a good start.

Audi’s “Daughter” – an aspirational message of gender equality

On February 1, Audi released “Daughter,” a 60-second spot focused on gender equality.

The narration is excellent and made more thought-provoking by the fact that we’re watching a young girl competing, having fun with boys. “What should I tell my daughter?…Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued less than every man she ever meets?”

Great question. Impactful message.

I’m sure Audi thought they were in the clear, after signing the White House’s equal pay pledge and promising to review its own pay policies back in December. But audiences immediately jumped on Audi for being hypocritical, with females making up only 14.8 percent of the group’s entire staff, a mere 8.9 percent of Audi management being women, and no women on its board of directors.

Should they have released the ad? I say yes. It gives them something to live up to under the public eye. If Audi was already the model corporation in terms of gender equality, they would have used adult women in a different kind of ad rather than focusing on the dreams of a father for his daughter. Right?

Where would we be if companies only advertised their or our reality? Reality is depressing enough. The goal of advertising is to suggest a new reality, a more favorable world we all want to buy into.

Nike’s “Equality” campaign – reminding us equality is possible

Nike is another company that released a campaign in February that deals with issues at the forefront of political conversation today, especially in the U.S. where foreign visitors are being detained in airports, immigrants are being rounded up for deportation, and hate speech is on the rise.

Sports has always been a venue for peace and cooperation, in the Olympics and in competitions and leagues throughout the world. The playing field is a place where, as Michael B. Jordan narrates, “you’re defined by your actions, not your looks or beliefs.”

Of course, Nike is taking heat for their history of using “sweatshop” factories in countries around the world that abused their workers and paid them little. Critics call them hypocritical for good reason and share current examples of inequality for Nike workers in places like Vietnam.

Yes, there’s much more work to be done, but do we kill the message because the messenger is still flawed? No…or we’d never hear these messages!

I’m always leery of companies cashing in on these messages–like Nike selling $35 “Equality” t-shirts–but I still think corporations play an important role in a free and just society. At least Nike has made an effort to be more than an ad campaign, and if you go to the Nike Equality campaign page, you’ll see they offer and sponsor opportunities to mentor in your community and are partnering with PeacePlayers International, an organization who works every day to encourage peace in areas of armed conflict by bringing kids together through sports.

“Equality should have no boundaries. If we can be equals here, we can be equals everywhere.”

This message is true–inspirational and aspirational. I, for one, am behind any well-done campaign that talks about important societal issues in such a way, especially in times in which some leaders prefer we all be quiet. Now, if we could get more companies to speak up and do more to pressure legislators (in whatever country they’re in) to create policies that better the environment, equalize justice in courts and in social institutions, foster diverse communities and more, that would be progress. That would be being a good corporate citizen, and we need people with that kind of leverage to take action.

We’re in this together. The more we remember that and encourage it, the better.





Restoring the Brand of a Fallen Superstar

You probably thought this was going to be yet another article about Lance Armstrong. No. Amidst all the hubbub over Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey and the questions of will he or won’t he be able to come back, another fallen superstar has quietly (and arguably) completed his brand restoration.

Tiger Woods is back—the old, likeable, marketable Tiger.

Nike Golf smartly paired their newly signed superstar Rory McElroy with Tiger Woods in this fun “No Cup is Safe” ad. And Tiger looks as relaxed and friendly as ever.

Nike is the “too big to fail” behemoth of the marketing world. They remain pretty much untouched by scandal by knowing when to drop an athlete and when to hold on. They dropped Lance once he admitted to doping.

With Tiger, Nike didn’t waver. They were one of the few sponsors not to drop the big-name golfer after the embarrassing sex scandal that ended his marriage and left his career as one giant question mark.

Tiger, at the time, was Nike Golf. So, you can say (and I did in my 2010 blog post) that Nike didn’t really have a choice. They had to stick with their moneymaker.

They released a creepy commercial that featured Tiger’s father speaking while we were left looking at the golfer’s grim face. It reeked of “feel sorry for me” and had people all over the Internet talking. A risky move, but one that ultimately paid off.

This latest commercial is Nike’s smartest move yet on Tiger’s brand comeback journey. Pairing Woods with one of the most likeable players out there—Rory McElroy—was a flat-out genius move.

Watch the ad, and notice the old Tiger moves—the flashy smile, the bouncing of the golf ball on the club and then launching it, the trick shots and sly “you can’t touch me” look—are back.

Even if the two top golfers weren’t actually together when filming this ad, this pairing is one we will all look forward to seeing again and again—on the course and in commercials.

Yes, Nike, Greatness Has Been Found…in a Gatorade Ad

Greatness has been found, and, no, not in a Nike commercial. Instead, I found it in this Gatorade commercial. Check it out:

“Greatness isn’t given. Greatness is taken—taken in the summer when no one’s looking.”

I wasn’t even watching my TV when this ad came on, but the words made me stop what I was doing and look up.

“Oh no you didn’t!” I thought, “Nike just got burned!”

Yes, I realize the Gatorade ad has been out since July, but I hadn’t seen it until recently—after the Olympics.

If you’re like me—maybe even if you’re not like me—you bristled a little at the “Greatness has been found” campaign of Nike’s I covered after the U.S. Women’s Soccer team won gold at the Olympics and donned those t-shirts.

Even not in the context of that event, the slogan seems arrogant and is missing that “Just Do It” nature that Nike commercials usually are very good at selling.

The “Find your greatness” aspect of Nike’s campaign was better, but Gatorade goes one step further with the intense workout footage and the words in their ad, starring Robert Griffin III, better known as RG3—a man who knows how to work. This man didn’t “find” the Heisman trophy, he earned it. He didn’t find his way to a top draft pick and a starting role for the Washington Redskins—he worked hard and earned it.

That’s why I think Gatorade has struck gold with this ad. You know by now that I’m a fan of great copywriting and, indeed, greatness has been found in RG3’s Gatorade commercial. It’s worth repeating.

“Greatness isn’t given. Greatness is taken…taken in the summer…when no one’s looking.”

So true. Go take yours…um, in the winter. Sorry, summer’s over.

Has Nike Found Its Greatness? Not Yet in This Ad Campaign

I’ll admit, when the U.S. women’s soccer team put on their Nike “Greatness has been found” t-shirts immediately after winning the gold medal match at the Olympics, I didn’t like it.

I felt it was rude to the losing team (Japan), and I thought the slogan was obnoxious.

My mind hasn’t changed about the women’s soccer team putting on their shirts, but I have found an appreciation for Nike’s campaign. Maybe you have too?

If you haven’t yet seen the “chubby kid” commercial (starring regular kid Nathan Sorrell) drawing both praise and criticism all over the Web, here it is:

“Find your greatness.”

Meh. It’s kind of a dull slogan. In context, however, it’s super-positive and could be used well by Nike to help boost teen/youth self-esteem.

Bullying is such a major issue these days, and our kids need positive messages and role models to believe in. That’s why I love this ad.

Kids need to know they’re great—just by being born, they are fantastic. Heck, many adults still need to know this too.

Sorrell’s “Jogger” ad goes very well with Nike’s Mark Cavendish ad—the message within his is that despite the negative things people said, he found success. He used their words as motivation.

Kids need to know that other people’s words do not determine their future or their worth.

If anything, I think the criticism of the “Find Your Greatness” campaign should be that it doesn’t go far enough.

In their press release introducing this campaign, Nike doesn’t even seem to understand the potential for this campaign’s greatness. Greg Hoffman, Nike VP of Brand Design & Communications, said:

The idea behind ‘Find Your Greatness’ is simply to inspire and energize everyday athletes everywhere to celebrate their achievements, participate and enjoy the thrill of achieving in sport at their own level.

Nike is such a powerful company, this campaign could be so much more. They have sharing aspects in place, but the social sharing seems to be focused more on Nike tools than on social good.

And that’s fine. It’s completely their own prerogative, but I just wish they used these ads and social sharing as just a start. Team up with schools and turn part of it into a drive to:

  • Reduce obesity in kids
  • Counter bullying in schools and on playgrounds
  • Boost self-esteem in youth and teens

The possibilities here seem too good to pass up. Nike does have a history of supporting kids and communities, so hopefully, they will use “Find Your Greatness” as another way to help even more.

Or, if Nike’s not up to the challenge, maybe schools and parents can use this message to start helping kids on their own.

What about you? Any ideas on how to make this “great” campaign even better?

Nike: Trying to be the Chosen one in action sports

Nike photo of ad with Paul Rodriguez skating down steps

Movies get shot in two years, not commercials, yet Nike took its time in what may be one of its boldest campaigns yet—Nike “Chosen.”

Chosen targets the Gen-Y audience hard, focusing on extreme or “action” sports. But this isn’t just a shot in the dark. It’s obviously a move that took quite a bit of planning. Successful integration often does.

Before we look at what Nike is doing, let’s go over a few things. Extreme sports came into favor mainly because of three factors:

  1. Attitude – These sports were originally seen as anti-establishment and anti-brand—a huge draw for a young audience.
  2. Connection – The athletes were regular teenagers and young adults who liked connecting with their audience and did so regularly—sometimes even in the midst of competing.
  3. Excitement – Our standard sports didn’t bring near the risk or excitement that these sports brought.

Knowing this background, hopefully you can see that the possibility of failure or backlash was big if Nike came in acting like a big brand in charge.

Instead, they inched in with Nike SB (skateboard) and then into the Winter Dew Tour as Nike 6.0 with a multiyear deal they took very seriously.  Their goal wasn’t just to sponsor and represent athletes. They got more involved with athletes to help showcase their sport and their talents and show their relationship was a two-way street.

The Chosen campaign sets a new mark for other brands to follow. Go to the Nike Chosen website and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Integration – Commercials were released on Facebook and YouTube first and then went to TV.
  • Interaction – Nike is not just sending out videos and hoping audiences like them. They want the audience to participate and send in their own videos—for what they’re calling “the ultimate prize.”
  • Segmentation – Action sports have many different arms, and Nike chose four to focus on—snow, BMX, surf, and skateboard.

They decided to highlight the athletes on their turf, not some fake set, and they included men and women. Involving fans is crucial for this audience, so the video contest was a terrific choice.

All of their choices show that Nike put the time and research in to really understand this audience. Check out the Chosen commercial and see what you think:

Even the music was chosen carefully. Listen to the lyrics in the song leading this commercial:

I’ve got a thing
You’ve got a thing
Everybody’s got a thing

Translation? That’s Nike saying, “We respect what you do. We’re not coming into your world to change you.”

They even allow each athlete to still wear and showcase their other sponsors. (Notice the RedBull helmet in the video and Monster gear in the contest and behind-the-scenes videos.)

Of course, Nike’s “Just do it” slogan appears at the end of the commercial, but given the thought, time, and preparation that went into this campaign, a more accurate message is “Just do it right.” Nike is definitely leading the way.

If you ran Nike, how would you start advertising with Tiger?

Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m the CEO of Nike, and it’s December 2009. I have a decision to make. What do we do with Tiger Woods?

What I’d like to do is make him fly, no drive to Oregon in his messed up Escalade with a scarlet “T” painted on the top and every side. I’d make him meet me in my office at 7 a.m., and I’d show up to finally talk to him at 4 p.m.

I’d tell him if he wants to keep his contract, he would have to clean the toilets throughout the company—at our headquarters and at every store.

When all was said and done, I would keep Tiger as the face of Nike Golf. Really, what other choice do I have?

In a way, I’m lucky because I’m not the CEO of Accenture or any of the other sponsors who dropped him or put Tiger ads on hold. These companies (even Gatorade) all relied on Tiger more as a role model than as a golfer, and though we (at Nike) do rely on his image and likeability, we’re going to be ok. Once Tiger gets back to golf full time, the buyers of his merchandise will be back.

I’m lucky again because my target audience is men, who do not attach emotionally to the man or his marriage. They just want to golf like him (and golf with him).

EA Sports, which also kept Tiger (and also relies on him for his golf, not his reputation), did research and ran focus groups (WSJ) to see what consumers were thinking.

They found that: “People were sensitive and caring about his wife and children but still recognized that he is the world’s greatest golfer, and they were looking forward to his return,” says EA Sports President Peter Moore.

So, now we’re in present time and I have to take this information (still as Nike CEO) and figure out how we start advertising again.

Do I decide that my first commercial will show a constipated-looking Tiger not saying a word while his dead father’s voice plays? Hell no! It reeks of “feel sorry for me,” and a smug irony—did they forget Tiger’s father wasn’t faithful either?

I would focus on the golf. Instead of showing Tiger, I’d show past golf shots, probably with the sound of the cheering crowds. I’d show the shoes as he blasted a ball off the tee. And at the end, I’d focus on humility and contrition. I’d show Tiger, not in his typical championship red, but in softer colors. He would say something serious and apologetic, but hopeful.

I’d start running it a few days into the Masters. Maybe Tiger would say simply, “Thank you…for welcoming me back.”

Why? Go back to the focus groups. Golf is going to save his image, his ad power, not any manufactured sentiment.

Now I’m back to being me. And, as the new awful ad says, I want to find out what your feelings are. What would you do if you ran Nike?


Photo credit: JLMitch

For a different advertising comeback story, read Beneath the Brand. For other views on Nike’s new Tiger ad, check out the Planet Money blog or Matt Singley’s blog.

5 tips for effective taglines

Got tagline? Ok, that’s a pathetic ripoff of Got milk?the most influential tagline since 1948. But it’s a good question. You know a good tagline when you hear one—when it’s another brand’s. But what’s the secret to developing your own killer tagline?

Before every moment, there’s a moment (Amp Energy), and behind closed doors that’s when people doubt themselves or think too hard and blow it. But don’t get mad, get GLAD, here are 5 tips for creating taglines:

1. Keep it simple. Don’t overthink your message. Nike’s Just do it may just be the best tagline ever. And yet, I imagine there were at least a few people in the room who said, “Do what? This doesn’t make any sense.” Don’t be that person.

2. Keep it real. Don’t promise something in your tagline that you can’t deliver. Notice no airline has the tagline On time every time.

3. Differentiate from competitors. Tastes great, less filling (Miller Lite) does this in four words. Light beer originally was a tough sell because it seemed too watery and didn’t taste like “real” beer. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking (Timex) directly tackles a concern watch wearers had. The few, the proud, the Marines. Two words, “the few,” set the Marines apart and seemingly above other military branches. The trick is you have to know what sets you apart.

4. Connect to your audience. Think about your customers’ needs. What’s important to them? Nationwide is on your side. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. You’re in good hands with Allstate. All three get the concept, but Allstate drives it home. Insurance should make you feel protected. Which one sounds more comforting and protective to you?

Connect to needs or connect to emotions or attitude. Impossible is nothing. Adidas isn’t saying you can do the impossible in their shoes, but they know athletes thrive on that attitude. Know your audience.

5. Make it easy to remember (especially in relation to your product). Welcome to the state of independence. It’s boring. It’s a sentence more than a tagline, and you’d never guess it’s for a car. If Saab was trying to express the feeling of freedom you get behind the wheel, why didn’t they use the word “freedom”? Freedom to just drive. Freedom on four wheels. Freedom is yours. Which one do you think is easier to remember?

All five points are important. If you focus only on keeping it simple, you might end up Moving forward (Toyota) with a bad tagline. Nothing will work if it’s not meaningful.

Test your ideas and trust your creatives. After all, we bring good things to life (GE).

Feel free to add your favorite and least favorite taglines below.

Inspiration: Nike ads just do it right

There’s a common theme I’ve seen this past week, and it comes at a great time. The message? If you get knocked down, get back up. Nike could not have timed their new Human Chain ad better.

They timed the launch with the Olympics, but it’s also perfect timing for the bleak state our economy is still in. Watch this video.

Now think of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been knocked down hard in the past two years. Here we sit on the edge of either recovering or going down further.

The constant talk about unemployment, the down economy, the inability of Congress to solve this or any other problem could keep us down for a while—unless we change the conversation.

The key to any recovery, even one as large as this, is to believe it can be done. If athletes can make us believe, marketers can too. We can’t just sell. We need to inspire.

The Olympics are a wonderful source of inspiration. We come together as a country, rooting for the same team. We are inspired by the athletes’ stories and performances.

Shaun White smacked his head hard in the X Games, won gold there and in the Olympics. How does he explain it? “I got back up. “ (Oprah interview 2/19)

Lindsey Vonn bruised her shin so badly she could barely walk, let alone ski. She came back and won the gold in her first event.

As marketers and creatives, who’ve suffered drastic budget cuts and staff cuts, we’ve been in our own funk. We’re so focused on selling that we forgot what motivates customers to stay with us.

Good advertising motivates you to buy a product. Great advertising inspires you for larger things. Nike gets it.

Now it’s your turn. As the song says, “Everybody gets knocked down. How quick are you gonna get up?”

It’s time—just do it.