Nike Embraces the Cold with ‘Choose Your Winter’ Campaign

Nike is encouraging consumers to embrace the cold, launching their ‘Choose Your Winter’ campaign to push a new line of winter activewear.

Nike’s not afraid of winter, and you shouldn’t be either. The brand’s new campaign – created by Wieden + Kennedy – juxtaposes a faux-meterorologist’s gloom-and-doom forecast with athletes casually going about their business in the frigid outdoor air.

Nike clearly spared no expense on this ad, hiring Hollywood character actor Chris O’Dowd to play the weatherman. The spot is also loaded with cameos from famous athletes, including Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Clint Dempsey.

While the dichotomy between the deadly weather report and the comfortable, Hyperwarm-clad athletes is worth a chuckle, the joke has run its course by the time 60 seconds are up. The most effective part of the ad for me was the seemingly tacked-on final 15 seconds.

In the ad’s epilogue, the only sound is the occasional honking of car horns, as a jogger speeds past a traffic jam on a snowy day. The tranquility of the silence – and the beautiful imagery of the cityscape looking over a river – makes the jogger’s situation more inviting than those stuck in traffic.

Sure, they may be warm and comfortable in their cars, but so is the jogger as he glides by in his Nike Hyperwarm gear. Winter’s not slowing him down. That’s pretty much the idea behind this entire campaign, yes? I’d like to see this coda released as a stand-alone ad, but maybe that’s just me.

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Hemingway Foundation Condenses Novels Into Instagram Videos

The Ernest Hemingway Foundation has released a series of 15-second Instagram videos based on the writer’s works.

Ernest Hemingway likely isn’t at the front of most Instagram users’ minds, unless they’ve been assigned one of his books in English class. In an effort to drum up interest in Hemingway’s novels among the social network’s youthful user base, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation has condensed several of his books into 15-second videos.

Now this is some clever stuff. Whether or not this all leads to millenials embracing Hemingway is anyone’s guess, but these brief videos are highly entertaining. The animation looks great, and the stripped-down stories are quite funny.

My favorite is “A Farewell to Arms,” in which the tragic romance between Frederic and Catherine is boiled down to three brief exchanges of dialogue. (Catherine’s deadpan “I’m going into labor and dying” had me in stitches.)

For Whom the Bell Tolls” likely does the best job of creating interest in the source material, selling Hemingway’s Spanish Civil War tale as an intriguing adventure story. “The Old Man and the Sea” is the least-successful of the three adaptations. It still elicits a chuckle, but I’m not sure who would ever want to read the book after watching the Instagram video.

This campaign is an exceptionally clever move on the part of the Hemingway Foundation. I can’t think of a much better way to make books from nearly a century ago relevant in 2014. As for me personally, I don’t think these videos will drive me back to the bookshelf to catch up on my Hemingway. However, I did just read his entire Wikipedia page, so that’s got to count for something.

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Wix Spending Millions for Cheap Web Design

Israeli web-design company Wix is spending millions of dollars on a Super Bowl ad, in an effort to heighten visibility for its dime-store service.

The irony here just slaps you in the face. Wix, the hilariously inept web-design company, will spend about $4.5 million on a Super Bowl spot to advertise their cheapskate, no-frills service. This news feels roughly equivalent to a Syfy Original movie receiving the advertising push of “Avatar.” Imagine if your local grocery chain suddenly started spending millions to advertise their knockoff store-brand Triscuits. (There’s the analogy I was looking for!)

Wix is essentially SquareSpace for people who can’t afford SquareSpace. It’s Geocities for the 21st century. It’s Blogspot for people too dumb to realize other sites offer the same tools for free. It’s “Web Design for Dummies” for people who don’t read books. Yet, here they are, buying a freaking Super Bowl ad, like it’s time to sit at the big kids’ table or something.

Well, I’ve got news for you, Wix. You can’t just buy your way into a spot at the big kids’ table and expect people to suddenly take you seriously. Furthermore, Wix says this is the start of a “far more aggressive campaign.” How do you get more aggressive than advertising during the Super Bowl?

Are they going to start paying people to tattoo “WIX” on their foreheads? Buy up the naming rights for people’s children? (I have to admit that Wix Davidson does have a certain ring to it, if the price is right.)

Do not get me started about a powered by Wix logo.

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Bud Light Plans New ‘Mixx Tail’ Flavored Beers

Anheuser Busch InBev is planning a new Bud Light line extension – flavored beers called ‘Mixx Tail.’”

A-B InBev is continuing their quest to make flavored beers socially acceptable. Not satisfied with just one Bud Light-branded line of wine coolers, the company is rolling out Mixx Tail. The new line will feature nondescript flavors like Hurricane and Firewalker, along with a traditional Long Island Ice Tea flavor. Because the world needs yet another “hard iced tea.”

The goal here must be to join forces with the existing Bud Light Ritas line, thus cornering the market on not-beers. Clearly, A-B InBev is hoping to lure those darned indecisive millennials, who can never choose whether they want a beer or a cocktail.

Enter Mixx Tail, a product that allows them to have both a beer and a cocktail simultaneously, eliminating the need for decisiveness. (Which, when you think about it, is the exact same marketing strategy behind Bud Light Ritas.)

I’ve always referred to these types of beverages as wine coolers. The rebranding to “flavored beer” is definitely a smart move, because there is absolutely nothing cool about drinking a wine cooler. Therein lies the rub with all these products – at heart, these are still wine coolers we’re talking about.

The bottom line, in my opinion, still comes down to the same problem as Bud Light Ritas. A-B InBev is going to have to do a whole lot of convincing to get any millennial to view a Mixx Tail Hurricane as anything different from the bottle of Bartles & Jaymes their great-aunt drank at the family reunion.

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Radio Shack Getting Strange With Weird Al

Radio Shack is expressing its strange side, enlisting Weird Al Yankovic as the company’s new spokesman.

Weird Al Yankovic’s career renaissance started earlier this year with the surprising smash-hit album, “Mandatory Fun.” (I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know he was still making music until I started hearing buzz for his new record.) Now, Radio Shack is hoping to ride Weird Al’s coattails to a holiday sales bonanza.

In classic Weird Al form, he has taken the song “Babes in Toyland” and re-written it with his own signature satirical lyricism. I had a good laugh when Weird Al told the customer that Radio Shack has gifts for anyone – “even cousin Bob who’s 43 and lives at home.”

Let’s face it, Radio Shack needs to do something to increase their visibility in the market. When I saw the new ad, I tried to think of the last time I had been to a Radio Shack. It was only some time later that I remembered that I drive right past one every single day, driving to and from work. I have never been inside the store, despite passing it ten times a week.

Radio Shack has seen its market footprint shrink considerably, in the face of competition from big-box electronics stores, as well as e-commerce. I can’t be the only one seeing the irony in an electronics store with an outdated image calling upon an entertainer from the ’80s to push their brand.

The spot itself almost feels like a skit from Weird Al’s 1989 cult classic film “UHF.” This ad would have fit right in alongside that film’s fake ads, such as the unforgettable “Spatula City.” The reason this new Radio Shack spot works so well is that you can tell Weird Al wrote the lyrics. He’s not singing some brand manager’s lines, and that’s refreshing.

My walking into a Radio Shack is another store.  Let’s not go there.

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John Wall Sees Too Far Into The Future In Foot Locker Ad

In a new 70-second ad for Foot Locker, Washington Wizards guard John Wall gets a prophetic look into his future – and doesn’t like everything he sees.

In a hilarious new spot, Foot Locker casts NBA star John Wall as a man who learns a bit too much about his own future. Referring to it as “The Process,” Wall’s friend tells him that – now that he has his own signature shoe at Foot Locker – his destiny awaits him.

This destiny includes becoming an all-time legend on the court, having his number retired, and opening a pretty awesome chicken-wing restaurant. It also includes being fleeced by his accountant and losing it all…before the release of Wall’s new “retro shoe” at Foot Locker revives his life.

The old adage, “It’s funny because it’s true,” fits this spot perfectly, as the future predicted by Wall’s friend is all too common among ex-pro athletes. The casting is commendable as well. Wall is a natural in front of the camera, easily holding his own with the professional actors in the spot.

The 70-second ad, created by BBDO New York, definitely takes some dark turns along the way, but Wall’s performance keeps it light. My favorite moment is when future-Wall, complete with a beer belly and a bad tie, does a local car commercial – a staple of hilariously bad pro-athlete endorsements. (This legendarily awful spot starring the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder is a perfect example.)

It helps that I actually like the shoes, as well. In contrast to the gaudy designs most other players choose, Wall’s kicks look like something a normal person would actually wear. All told, I can’t think of anything I dislike about this spot – and if you know me, you know that’s saying an awful lot!

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Surprise, Surprise: Burberry Targets Rich White People

In a move that is sadly not a surprise, Burberry’s new ad is an exercise in excess aimed at rich white people.

Burberry’s official statement on their new video spot says, “The Burberry festive film is inspired by the golden age of cinematic musicals.” Okay, I’m with them so far, as this does aesthetically hearken back to the Hollywood musicals of the 1950’s. Then: “It tells the tale of a young couple falling in love, against a theatrical backdrop of London.” Poppycock, I declare!

So you can save yourself four-plus minutes, I’ll tell you what really happens. This is not some epic love story. There’s not even really a coherent narrative to speak of. The entire runtime consists of fur-coat clad dancers frolicking in the snow, with David Beckham’s son running around for absolutely no discernible reason.

The music sounds like a bad, raspy Coldplay wannabe (which I assume to be the British corollary to a Nickelback clone). The visuals are impressive, but they never change. This would probably work pretty well as a 30-second spot, but at four-plus minutes it’s simply self-indulgent nonsense.

Near the end of the spot, Beckham shows up wearing a hideously shiny, floor-length gold jacket that only James Brown could ever dream of pulling off. Speaking of James Brown…

Can we talk about this spot’s race issue? Among the dozens of dancers, I spotted one black man, who appears in the background of three shots throughout the spot’s nearly four-and-a-half minute runtime. Every other person is as white as the fake stage snow they’re dancing in. Burberry may as well have added the tagline, “Clothing for wealthy white people.” That’s not a message I’m comfortable with in 2014.

If you like your advertising to be elitist, race-exclusive, self-congratulatory garbage masquerading as art, “From London with Love” is for you. (The sad part about all this is that part of me thinks Burberry absolutely nailed their target market.)

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KFC Serves Brotherly Love with Fans

KFC is now serving some brotherly love with their new fans campaign, complete with a side order of brownies.

As if the Colonel himself isn’t wholesome enough for the brand, KFC is hoping to warm (or clog) the hearts of it’s target demographic with a heart-wrenching new ad.

Fans is salty story of two young, Scottish footballers, (and not the kind that make headlines for repeatedly “trying to get things right”), rooting for opposing teams. It’s kicked off by a sing-songy, maternal voice calling “Callum” to get ready for the game, juxtaposed with Callum’s brother doing a similar routine but with his father. Subsequent shots outline the two boys heading separately to the stadium, followed fan reactions of the game’s highlights. When all is settled, Callum is left with his head in his hands, his mother consoling him, as his brother and father approach KFC. It isn’t until nearly a minute into the commercial that the camera finds the famous red letters, the Colonel’s smiling face and trademark spectacles. And now thanks to the help of ad agency BBH London, the campaign goes for the sales close….

Meet the closer: KFC’s new brownie bucket. Aah, young kids player soccer, some tears and then the Colonel comes to the rescue with a bucket of goodness. Daddy’s home. And the crowd goes wild.

Apparently while aggrandizing his secret fried chicken recipe, Colonel Sanders was also an avid baker. Why each item has to come in a bucket remains mysterious – but hey, at least one guy found a great use for it after finishing his multi-thousand calorie meal.

Unfortunately, I don’t eat things that come in buckets.

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Who Needs Stores? E-Commerce Taking Over China

With e-commerce taking over the marketplace, retailers are forgoing physical stores in China.

In America, Costco is known for their low prices and big-box stores. In China, they’ll still have the low prices. They’re just skipping the part about having a physical store.

In the last five years, e-commerce has grown from 3% to 15.4% of the total retail sales in China. For brands looking to enter the country for the first time, e-commerce provides a low-risk, high-reward scenario that is nearly impossible for retailers to pass up.

Take for example, British fashion retailer Topshop. The brand recently debuted in China, hosting a launch event where guests tried on outfits, or took pictures with London’s famous red phone booths. However, this physical, offline event was anything but. No cashiers were present to “ring up” customers’ orders. Want to buy what you just tried on? Scan it into your smartphone and simply walk away.

China’s combination of exploding rent prices and tough competition for good locations is somewhat unique. For example, Best Buy recently closed all of its brick-and-mortar stores in China. The company was simply unable to engage in competitive pricing while still maintaining physical locations.

While brick-and-mortar retail stores everywhere face stiff challenges from e-commerce, don’t expect major retailers elsewhere to follow the example in China just yet. In America, the Wal-Marts and Targets of the world can still affordably set up shop on a frontage road in the suburbs. (Obviously, under either model, the ‘mom and pop’ retailer is totally screwed.)

However, talk to me in 2025 and I bet I’ll have a different story to tell. E-commerce is the future everywhere. That future is simply arriving faster in some countries than in others.

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Gatorade Employees Sweat Out It Out

On a quest for wellness, Gatorade is making employees sweat it out. Literally.

The Chicago-based sport drink brand is promoting workplace fitness by incentivizing employees to set personal fitness goals. Apparently company executives realized their sugary drinks needed extra exercise to burn off.

The PepsiCo-owned brand is providing a 6-month program for its 150 employees by providing subsidized program costs and access to trainers called G-Feat. The G-Feat plan includes a daily 60-second workout…at the office…with your officemates, making that mid-afternoon cup of coffee expendable.

So every afternoon all of the Gatorade coworkers have the opportunity to get up out of their chair for a minute of squats, planks, or jumping jacks. As if that wasn’t an opportunity for enough embarrassment, the G-Feat program encourages participants to make their goals public by posting them at the office so colleagues can keep each other motivated.

The G-Feat plan allows employees to be put in the consumer shoes. Gatorade executives are hoping training employees might notice a need to drink Gatorade at specific times or have a certain flavor. Either way, I doubt they want them even thinking about drinking a bottle of water. I bet if someone utters the words “Poland Springs”, they are ordered to do a pushups.

I’ll be staying far away from Gatorade HQ. I don’t shvitz with colleagues.

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