Garfield's AdReview: Lugz walks fine line between keeping it real and selling out

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Word up? This is your DJ, Can't-Dancemaster Robert, who is so mad white it practically hurts. Oy oy, can't afford blingbling because all my money goes to sunblock. KnowwhatI'msayin'? With respect to the intricacies of urban youth culture, y'all, I'm pretty much tonedef.

But not necessarily uninterested.

Which explains how my head twisted about 270-degrees around when I got a glimpse of a new TV spot for Lugz footwear, featuring DJ FunkMaster Flex, who is a sort of hip-hop Casey Kasem.

No, wait. That concept doesn't exist, but Flex is a syndicated spinner of rap disks, a club DJ, record producer, car-show impresario and, now, fashion dictator. His message for young-black-male America: You need driving shoes.

That's correct. Driving shoes.

"Lugz, Baby!" he shouts to begin the spot, which shows the FunkMaster alternately DJing and tooling around in his chrome-adorned SUV in various colors of driving shoes. (These look exactly like bowling shoes, by the way, although you can't rent them.) Then he continues to bark at the audience. Flex is no crooner.

"Funk-Funk-FunkMaster Flex. The FMF-1 Driving Shoe. 2003-that's what's up. Ridin' with the big dog. [i.e., Flex himself] Funk Flex, Lugz, a'ight.[all right]. When you're sitting on 24s [24-inch wheel rims, the current rage in automotive blingbling], that's what you need.

"Lugz. The street is ours."

That's "ours" as in, us black folk-although that's just where the story begins. Lugz's world is a delicate ecosystem, requiring the company first to cultivate demand within the primary, urban-black target audience and then to export the urban style to the suburban malls of middle America-and to pull both off without alienating the core audience who highly value "keeping it real." For the moment, we won't discuss what is so real about lugged-sole shoes, much less driving shoes. Rap has rhyme and reason, but fashion does not.

What we can ask is: Will this audacious gambit actually work?

Among the reasons advertising is so widely castigated is for its presumption to "invent desire," to force useless goods and services on a shallow and insecure consuming public. In actual historical fact, advertising has been woefully unsuccessful in selling people what they neither genuinely want nor need; advertising isn't even all that hot at selling a particular brand of what consumers have demonstrated they do want and need.

Attempts to capture lightning in a bottle usually result in electrocution. Never mind Touch of Yogurt shampoo, an obvious non-starter. Ask Gap, which has gone from the heights of understated cool to serial failure by trying to create fashion by fiat. "Everybody in vests," they said. Well, as it turned out, no. Most everybody not in vests.

Lugz, however, has been pretty successful so far, and this current attempt to create a fashion item out of whole leather may actually work, no matter how preposterous the underlying concept-partly because Funk Funk FunkMaster seems to insist, a'ight?

That may be more dismaying than encouraging. But that, too, is a question for another day.


Avrett Free & Ginsberg, New York

Ad Review Rating: 2.5 stars

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