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Here I go again, picking on poor Wieden + Kennedy.

 

I
feel like I need to start this post by backpedaling. Wieden + Kennedy
is one of the greatest ad agencies in the history of advertising.
They've done incredible work over years –– some of the most persuasive,
iconic, spectacular advertising that truly moved the marketing
communication business forward.



And
no, I'm not just talking about the "old" Wieden + Kennedy. Last
year's  Old Spice work is nothing short of spectacular. Their 'The Man
Your Man Could Smell Like' spot defies conventional advertising's
narrative structure and continues the brand's wry, post-modern take on
both male sexual identity and advertising itself. The Target work has
been extraordinarily well-targeted and beautifully executed.


But
enough preamble. I'm here to take the unpopular position on probably
the biggest piece the agency has produced this year: Nike's 'Write the
Future' epic for the World Cup.

I hate it.


More than I hate their most recent Jeep commercial, which I blogged about on June 11th.
And more than I hate the Dodge spot where George Washington rides into
battle in a Dodge, which I didn't blog about, but railed against
privately to anybody who would listen.



Sure,
'Write the Future' is beautiful. As a piece of film, it's an
achievement on par with 'Lawrence of Arabia'. And even as advertising,
it's powerful. But it's utterly, completely, absolutely the wrong
message for Nike.



Remember
when Nike came up with the line 'Just Do It.'? Probably not. That was
back in 1988. That line crystalized a brand positioning that catapulted
Nike to what it is today: A company that stands for individual
achievement, pursuit of athleticism as its own reward, and disregard
for convention. The brand positioning allowed them to execute a range
of incredible work, some of it so powerful and iconic that many
sub-campaigns could have stood on their own better than 99% of the
stuff most agencies were doing. 'There is no finish line' and 'Either
you ran today or you didn't' are two extraordinary examples.



Until now.


'Write
the Future,' if you haven't seen it, presents a simple message: You're
either famous and rich or you're a failure. And that's so exactly,
completely counter to everything Nike represents that I cringe every
time I see it. Frankly, Nike would have accomplished more for its brand
if they'd run the exact same spot and put the Adidas logo at the end.



(I
know, I know. Nike is responsible for the very celebrity its athletes
purport to eschew. The premise, however, has always been that the fame
seeks the athlete, not the other way around.)



Is
this the demise of Nike? I doubt it. Too many smart people, on both the
client and agency side, will realize that the piece, while magnificent,
ultimately sabotages the fundamental message of Nike. I feel like the
lone smart ass for pointing this out now, but I feel so strongly about
it that I'm willing to commit, publicly, to the position that both
Wieden + Kennedy and Nike will ultimately consider the piece a mistake.



That,
or Wieden + Kennedy isn't as good as it used to be. Based on some of
the other work coming out of there, that's a possibility I refuse to
entertain.

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