Nike, Kaepernick and Brand Image

Had a spirited discussion this morning on Facebook that my friend Toby Barlow participated in. Decided to post one of my comments in its entirety here. As of 11:53 am EST, and less than 24 hours since Nike shared their ad, their stock is down over 2%, and boycotts, cutting out swooshes from clothes, etc. have been threatened. No doubt Nike knew they were going to incite this kind of reaction. My response to the ballyhoo below. 

Here’s why I think this Colin Kaepernick Nike ad is a game changer – to date, yes Nike’s been the bold brand – crashing the Olympics with Michael Johnson’s gold shoes, giving Charles Barkley a platform to proclaim “I am NOT a role model“, etc. but at no point before this spot was there ever a figure that controversially stood both for and against America concurrently (depending on your perspective of course).

The Nike ad is thoughtful, introspective. “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

It’s so appropriately Nike yet in the connotation it’s presented, will blast a hole in the relationship between Nike and the NFL for years to come, while debated across homes throughout America. This morning while grabbing my Tim Hortons, I overheard a woman, mid 60’s, talking about the ad with disgust followed with, “This is NOT what my husband died for serving our country.”

Ironically, it kind of was.

WE (e.g. you and I Toby) look at the Kaepernick ad as a shot in the arm to promoting civil rights. What sacrifice did Kaep make (his professional career) to ensure that police brutality ends amongst minorities?

But what about issues we may not agree with? What about gun control? Would it be that surprising to see Dana Loesch in a pair of Under Armour outdoor boots touting her 2nd amendment rights?

Or the Brave’s Daniel Murphy touting chicken biscuit sandwiches for Chick-fil-A under a strong caption disagreeing with LGBT lifestyles?

Nike opened the door for brands to pick sides on personal and political issues where for the most part, they’ve remained objective and silent. I’m not sure this is a good or bad thing. I’m still synthesizing.


The Controversy With Pixelated Pitchmen

If Bruce Lee were alive today, what would he command as a pitchman for top brands? For comparison sake,  Tiger Woods drove $78.1 million over the last year from prize money, endorsements, appearance fees and golf course design work.

Conversely, Oprah made $165 million dollars last year attributed to O: The Oprah Magazine, spin-off shows like The Dr. Oz Show and a radio deal with Sirius.

Lee was charismatic, drawing universal appeal across race, ethnicity and geography. Shrines built to his athleticism, it’s easy to imagine brands such as Nike making him the face of a “Just Do It” campaign. If I close my eyes, I could imagine the swoosh on the yellow jumpsuit, the voiceover with his famous quote “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

See, Bruce Lee was on brand. Drawing parallels to his personal mantra, “Just Do It” means don’t think, don’t ask, don’t talk about it, don’t regret it, just do it. The visual display of Lee’s 1″ punch at say 4700 frames per second, alongside this motto coincide with this notion. Lee could have been the ultimate Nike pitchman.

But what happens when you’re off brand? That’s the current controversy surrounding Johnnie Walker’s tribute to the greatest martial artist to ever live. Considered polemical by some, Lee comes to life, with a 3D image of his face superimposed upon another man, Hong Kong actor Danny Chan. The creative team worked diligently to recreate over 250 of his facial expressions.

The ad didn’t just require high precision – which it accomplished. it needed to be credible- which it also accomplished.

And maybe therein lies the issue. Johnnie Walker brought Bruce Lee back to life. The work so well done, it’s indistinguishable from the reality of the fact he hasn’t been alive for 40 years. For all intents and purposes, the advertisement should be a strong player in Cannes. So why are so many fans viscerally offended?

Because Bruce Lee didn’t drink alcohol.

Yet the brand found value in what Lee stood for.

Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon, hired as a consultant by the whiskey company,  has been vocal in defense of the likeness in the commercial, referring to it as a tribute. Additionally she mentioned to the South China Morning Post, that alcohol wasn’t shown in the 90 second ad and that her father “…did not have a problem with people who drink occasionally…He was never knocking drinks out of people’s hands if they were having an enjoyable time…”

Lee isn’t the first to be enshrined as a digital copy of one’s self. There was ConAgra’s attempts at resuscitating Orville Redenbacher, and Coachella bringing Tupac out on stage to perform with Snoop Dogg. Even Michael Jordan got to play one-on-one with himself during a Gatorade commercial.

However in those instances, belief wasn’t suspended, it was just on brief pause. Johnnie Walker, in my opinion, brought Lee back from the grave to help them sell whiskey. More so, they used his likeness to sell whiskey while speaking Mandarin – Lee’s native language was Cantonese.

Brands need to be reminded that the stewards of the brand can be as cherished by the public as the brand itself. Johnnie Walker uses Lee’s infamous “Longstreet” monologue as inspiration for its voiceover,  concluding as the digitized Lee stares intensely at the camera to “Be water, my friend”.

While the ad is based around these famous lines, using the theme of the power of water as a parallel for the glory and stature of the icon, it’s easy to see another link in a twist of unintended irony, between water and pixels.

Running water never grows stale. Let’s hope that the same can be said for the future of advertising.

Right Ad Served At The Wrong Time: Offends Fans of Chris Henry Through Liberty Mutual Rich Media Takeover

When major media events take place, I implore all brand managers, media directors and marketing professionals to do a simple review of your ad buys. Make sure that if you’ve got a rich execution such as a homepage takeover on say,, it wouldn’t in any way inadvertently offend any readers because out of all of the ads I’ve ever seen served, this one may take the cake as most insulting.

And as for, they aren’t indemnified from this. The account rep should have warned Liberty Mutual that their ad may be seen as offensive given the context. Both parties are at fault – and if this picks up steam, I fully expect them to apologize or take the opportunity to donate to a Bengals charity.

As for Chris Henry, I’m a fan of the NFL as well as a fan of comeback stories. He was out of the league at one point due to his behavior and fully believe his teammates when they insisted today he had turned his life around. My condolences go out to Chris Henry’s family and the Bengals.

via: With Leather

Blackberry Pushes In-Video Ads Against Obama Speech

So I decided to watch the live MSNBC stream of the Obama speech tonight when what do we see here? A pop up video ad, but not just any ad. No, no, no! This was easily the most contextually relevant in-video ad I’ve seen to date.

Whoever decided at RIM to run the Obama can’t-live-without-his-favorite-gadget-ever in-video spot, kudos to you. Brilliant placement that I even think our President would endorse.

The Superbowl Effect On Gameplay

There’s no way you were watching Tom Petty according to this geeky insight on the Superbowl’s effect on game play.

My friend Jay and I had an interesting discussion over email regarding the impact gaming has in regards to Superbowl eyeballs. Given the fact that Jay leads the Massive dynamic in-game advertising team for Microsoft, he has infinitely more insight into what his audience is doing during linear programming. Below are snippets from our conversation:

Server traffic from Xbox games on Massive had a drop during the Super Bowl. See the graph above. There is a very obvious spike in the middle where people didn’t want to watch the halftime show and switched back to their Xbox and played games on the Massive Network.

To be clear, the graph below shows raw server traffic, not impressions. Also of, note is that traffic from PC games did not have any obvious drop.

Jay’s armchair theory is that Xbox is most affected because, of course, it is the same TV set used for most people. I agree with Jay. But perhaps it also has something to do with the demographics and the kinds of games (sports) that Massive supports via Xbox.

So Jay decides to eat his own dogfood in a sample set of one: The Sampson HH cut over for a quick round of Guitar Hero 3 versus watching Tom Petty. While Jay riffed away on his plastic Gibson Les Paul, I was on Twitter complaining to Peter Kim about the GoDaddy commercial.

Something to keep an eye on when advising clients on where to place their $$ on Superbowl Sunday.

Loopt, CBS Mobile, and Location Based Services

A year and a half ago I sat in a conference room in Discovery HQ when their CMO at the time turned to me and asked what I thought the biggest trend in emerging platforms would be for 2007 and without hesitation I blurted out Location Based Services.

Okay so I was off bigtime.

But my crush on LBS has been ongoing for a while now, ever since I watched my former Simplewire co-founder triangulate locations through cell towers via SMS 7 years ago.

My obsession continued, amplified bigtime upon my introduction to Joe Waltman and the Boost team last year. When I was able to see Loopt in action for the first time, I saw what I knew was going to be a major hit. The Boost commercials validated my assumptions.

At the time, Boost had some form of exclusivity on Loopt. No longer, as Sprint is in on the game now. Sam Altman, Loopt CEO is currently negotiating with other carriers to bring his services to their customers.

So imagine my giddyness this evening as I stumbled upon Jamie Wells’ blog post on a CBS Mobile/Loopt LBS Ad deal. I’m not going to regurgitate Jamie’s POV so instead I’ll link to it here.

Okay great, I can find friends, and serve ads that lead people to my client’s products/services. But where’s the excitement? Well it’s in the numbers my friends:

  • There are some 130 million GPS-capable handsets are in use in the US
  • Approximately 13 million mobile consumers downloaded a mobile application on their phone.
  • LBS accounted for 51% of the $118 million generated in revenue by downloadable mobile applications such as LBS, weather applications, chat/community, and personal organization tools.

As it stands today, LBS has been used primarily for directions. With the Loopt deal, we’ll begin to see mainstream embrace “LSS” or Location Social Services