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Nike, Xbox Show the Power of Great Ideas and Stellar Production

These Great Big-Ad Brands Get Downright Mythic in New Spots

By Published on .

Not that hand-held DIY-style video hasn't done its part for the ad industry, but let us now bid a hearty welcome back to production values, returning with a furious vengeance in two recent visual stunners for Nike and Xbox. Never exactly shrinking violets on the great-big-ad issue, both brands got downright mythical on our asses in these most recent outings.
Nike Football's 'Leave Nothing' ad features Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman and Rams running back Steven Jackson in director Michael Mann's homage to his 'Last of the Mohicans.'
Nike Football's 'Leave Nothing' ad features Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman and Rams running back Steven Jackson in director Michael Mann's homage to his 'Last of the Mohicans.'

After demonstrating its superiority in design and interaction with its ( R/GA-assisted) game-changing Nike Plus initiative, Nike returned to fantastic film form with the mesmerizing "Leave Nothing" for Nike Football. Now, I don't really watch NFL football unless Mr. Iezzi is watching and I'm too numb to move, but I know a rousing slice of gridiron mythology when I see one. The ad, created by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., and directed by Michael Mann ("The Insider," "Collateral") couldn't be simpler -- it depicts Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman and Rams running back Steven Jackson traveling across a field and across time and through an array of barriers, human and meteorological. It's real giants-walking-among-us, modern-day-gladiators fare, larded with universal human struggle; it's like life condensed to 60 seconds.

Scored with a stirring number Mann borrowed from his 1992 feature "Last of the Mohicans," the spot is so visually striking that it doesn't even look real at times, yet it feels strikingly real. In one small scene, Merriman, having blasted his way through four opponents, falls down and takes a beat or two longer than he should to get to his feet. It sounds insignificant, but devastating details often do.

For a campaign supporting the launch of a little shooter sequel you may have heard of, "Halo 3," McCann, San Francisco, its T.A.G. group and AKQA broke from the game-footage mold and created history -- literally. McCann/T.A.G. spearheaded the "Believe" campaign which includes an alternate-reality game, films and a site based around an intricately detailed diorama depicting a "historic" battle within "Halo." The agency worked with Stan Winston Studios, New Deal Studios and MJZ director Rupert Sanders to conjure a 1,200-square-foot still life that includes more than 1,000 individually rendered, 4-inch figurines modeled from scans of human faces and tiny recreations of all the weapons and alien enemies featured in the game.

As it did with its superb "Gears of War" spot, the agency aimed to capture those potential gamers not already living within the Halo cult, creating a mythology around the game's central conflict with a physical monument and humanizing the game's hero, Master Chief Petty Officer John 117. In the campaign's anthem spot, a camera tours the frozen battle scene, lingering on faces and weapon blasts and skirmishes; in other films, "veterans" of the battle visit the monument and convey their recollections (the one element of the campaign I could have done without -- a little sad and creepy). A site created by AKQA allows visitors to take a close-up virtual tour of the diorama, with 360-degree zooms and buttons to click to learn more about enemy fighters in the real game, see video and read "first-person accounts." A "making of" film stays within the conceit -- we are taken inside the Museum of Humanity and learn about the monument to John 117, built in the year 2607 and made entirely by hand, with scans of real Marines' faces used to fabricate the miniatures.

If one could tear one's attention away from either of these efforts long enough, one might be troubled by the glorification of real and metaphorical violent conflict in this way. Fortunately, that's not possible.

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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and Creativity-Online.com.
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