- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Cross-Training,or cross-straining? Nike's ad campaign for its new Air Cross Trainer II urges viewers to turn from their televisions to their computers to learn how each commercial "ends." In the first 60- second spot, which premiered on Jan. 15, the camera chases sprinter Marion Jones through a Santa Monica, Calif., neighborhood, culminating with an airborne chain saw plummeting toward the camera (i.e., the viewer).
What happens next? The screen fades to black, and the words "Continued at: whatever.nike.com appear. On the site the curious may select one of seven climaxes, each of which lasts 25 to 50 seconds. Says Mike Wilsky, Nike's vice president of U.S. marketing, "Clearly, what we're trying to do is intrigue people to turn a 60-second experience with our product into a 30-minute experience by lingering on the Web site."
Bold idea, questionable execution. In two of the seven endings the viewer dies. In three others the viewer has an arm severed, gets teeth knocked out or suffers a facial injury so hideous it sends a nurse screaming out of the ER. Was this campaign conceived by Wieden & Kennedy or Beavis & Butt-Head?
The second installment is set on a cruise ship. This time, instead of playing the hapless Wile E. Coyote chaser, the viewer is chased by Mark McGwire after plunking Big Mac with a baseball. The TV ad ends with the viewer falling down a vent, a la Alice in Wonderland. Again, the on-line outcomes are grisly: One has McGwire delivering a punch to the viewer's gut and then tossing him overboard. Two others have Broncos running back Terrell Davis using the viewer's lips to tee up a golf ball or impaling him during an ill-fated knife-throwing performance.
"Most companies don't give teens enough credit for having perspective," says Wilsky. "Their ability to have a sense of humor about things and be sarcastic without losing perspective is really high."
That point is debatable, but these ads have less in common with cartoon violence than they do with sadism. Davis, Jones and McGwire all seem to revel in the pain they are inflicting on their victims. The term target consumer has never been so apt.
Sadism, however, seems to sell shoes. "After the ads debuted," says Wilsky, "the shoe immediately shot to Number 1 in Nike sales. It's outselling our second-most-popular shoe 10 to 1."
Content aside, Nike's campaign puts networks in an awkward spot. Won't such ads, inspired by the popularity of the Victoria's Secret on-line "fashion show" during last year's Super Bowl, encourage viewers to turn off the TV and log on to their computer? CBS and NBC apparently think so; they cut the words "Continued at" from the spots. Wilsky calls that stab at self-preservation "archaic" and adds, "Sports, like everything else, is entering the digital world. If you're a network that's trailing in the digital race, then this is somewhat intimidating. But this isn't the future; it's the present.