An Emotional Run

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Running is horrible...when it's not amazing. It's not fun at all, until it is. If there is one thing we can all agree on it's that placing one foot in front of the other at a fast pace tends to walk a finer line between pleasure and pain more than any other simple athletic pursuit. While some sneakers have focused expressly on the addicted or the casual fan, BBDO, New York's first work for New Balance, an account it won last October, attempts to include the whole spectrum of the jogosphere.

"No matter if you're a hardcore runner or a casual runner, you all have a relationship with running," says executive creative director and copywriter Greg Hahn. "That's why we thought it would be interesting to personify running as a personal relationship. Personal relationships range from lifelong loving partnerships to casual flirting, and so does running. So it brings it down to that human level, no matter where your relationship with running is."

As personal relationships go, the campaign sets up running as Love/Hate. Hahn says that stems from the internal struggle within every runner. "No matter if you do it everyday or not, there's still a part of you that has to force you to do it, and once you're out there, you're glad you did. Running is hard but not running is harder."

In the campaign's first TV spot "Anthem," directed by Fredrik Bond, we see a familiar scene of an early-rising runner seemingly debate the decision to leave the comfort of his darkened bedroom to pound the pavement. "(This) is the one that sets the tone and sets up the campaign," says Hahn. "We have this red world which represents the mindspace of a runner and that internal struggle. So as soon as the runner opens the door and begins his run he enters this space of what it feels like to run, as opposed to just showing him running down the street. In the other spots, whenever someone's running or training, they're in that red world. When they're not, it's just about that personal relationship – they're thinking about running or they've just finished running."

The internal running happy place resembles a cross between a warm hearth and a psilocybin-induced vision of New York. Giant apartment buildings in the shape of the words "love" and hate" loom over runners as they weave through the city. " "We didn't want to do it in CGI (because) we wanted it to have that tactical feel that's more visceral, so it's all done with models," says Hahn. "There was a lot of running on green screens and matching up shots, so that was a challenge to make sure all that lined up. It was a lot of pre-planning. The model makers (New Deal Studios) are amazing. I think the letters took about three or four weeks to build."

This particular vision of running we see is primarily Bond's vision. "We gave him a pretty open brief," says Hahn. "We approached the spot as less of a storyboard and more of a mood piece, just wanting to convey this love/hate relationship many people have with running. He brought in the idea that the buildings should be shaped like the words, and he separated the moods of the hate and love worlds. It's true, too, once you pass mile two running becomes easier for some reason. So we just worked together to build the story arc, you start in this hate world where you're struggling and then you're in this love world where it all becomes more effortless, open and expansive."
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