Garfield's AdReview: Nike and Reebok get chuckles but forget the fundamentals

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How rare is this? Two commercials, water-cooler conversation all over America, both funny, both fun-and for direct competitors yet. Not since the simultaneous Avis "We Try Harder" and "Hertz Puts You in the Driver's Seat" campaigns 40 years ago have we seen this occur. Yet the Nike "Streaker" spot and Reebok's "Terry Tate, office linebacker" have both captured viewers' imaginations everywhere.

And neither of them is particularly good.

Okay, now settle down. We know that's like badmouthing God or Ozzy Osbourne, and we don't wish to be reactionary. We acknowledge that the original Terry Tate spot from the Arnell Group, New York-about a football player/office enforcer-is hilarious. But it's also just a random funny idea that found an advertiser willing to sponsor it. Where's the connection to Reebok? Where's the proposition for building the brand?

neglect

As for "Streaker," from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., it's not nearly the non-sequitur that Reebok has generously donated to the nation's collective funnybone, but nonetheless is compromised by a stunning neglect of basic advertising values. Sure, it's a remarkable achievement in the realms of comedy and production. Yeah, it's one of the rare commercials that people watch frame for frame, wondering about its provenance. But as for promoting the advertised product, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Perhaps you didn't even realize there is an advertised product. "Streaker" isn't part of the Nike image campaign. It's not about the swoosh, or about the fun of play, or about just doing it. It's about-i.e., it's supposed to be about-the allegedly revolutionary Shox shock-absorbency technology, a decade and many millions of Nike R&D dollars in the making.

In all probability, that's news to you, because the ad is so busy showing a fleet naked man running from the police in cool (or, to our taste, goofy) looking sneakers, that it neglects to inform anyone about, much less dramatize, the putative product benefit. On the contrary-how can we phrase this?-shock resistance clearly is the last thing on this dude's mind.

Very strange. If you've built the better mousetrap, why advertise the cheese?

And, getting back to Reebok, if you sell shoes and athletic apparel, why build your image campaign around a joke that has nothing to do with either, and which will very soon grow very tiresome? Terry Tate has already grown tiresome. Notwithstanding the 1.2 million downloads of the first spot from Reebok's Web site, the gag is already played out. The second spot is reduced to mimicking, of all things, "Streaker"-only in this version, Terry Tate tackles the naked hooligan.

Apart from the fact that the spoof serves Nike at least as well as it serves Reebok, there is no place to go from here. What have we to look forward to-ever more iterations of the office linebacker tackling unsuspecting victims? Oh, yeah, that'll move the $100 shoes.

* CORRECTION: Due to the shocking carelessness of an editor, the graphic in last week's column misidentified the Wieden & Kennedy, New York, office responsible for the ESPN branding campaign. We apologize, although that same editor has saved our ass more times than we can count.

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