Small Agency, Big Idea: TBD brings Havaianas’ foot-friendly art to Venice Beach
Ahead of Ad Age's 10th Annual Small Agency Conference in New Orleans July 30-31, we are highlighting standout work from the industry's tiny but mighty creative players. Here we dig into the latest from TBD, the 15-person San Francisco shop co-founded by Chief Creative Officer Rafael Rizuto, veteran of agencies including 180 L.A, Pereira O'Dell and Ogilvy Brasil; and CEO Jordan Warren, who also co-founded other San Francisco shops Eleven and Argonaut. Both Warren and Rizuto will also be speaking at the conference.
New York City-based street artist Buff Monster typically sees his creations hanging on gallery walls or adorning the sides of buildings. But fresh from signing off on his rainbow-colored mural on New York’s Lower East Side to help celebrate Pride month, he was on the other side of the country, watching pedestrians in Southern California walk all over another of his creations.
But that was the point. San Francisco small shop TBD tapped the artist to create a summer-inspired mural as part of Brazilian flip-flop brand Havaianas' marketing push to help raise awareness in the U.S.
Filled with Buff Monster’s signature ice cream characters and images that pay homage to the Brazilian company’s roots, the art not only looked good, it felt good too. Set on the ground, just off the Venice Beach boardwalk, it was printed on cushy material similar to that used for Havaianas slippers, and passersby were encouraged to shed their shoes and “Step Into Summer,” the theme of the campaign.
Even more, consumers could "shop" at the mural.
Using Google Vision A.I. technology, consumers could aim their phone's cameras at the mural's different patterns and embedded Easter Eggs to shop products with their respective themes. The site not only took them to the point-of-purchase, it also offered styling tips from celebrity stylist Tara Swennen on how to wear the sandals with outfits from day to night.
According to TBD co-founder Rafael Rizuto, the campaign’s aim was awareness, but more important, “It’s about how can you make the try-on experience entertaining?”
In Buff Monster, who is currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Havaianas found a kindred spirit. “Havaianas has an ethos of joy, color and summer, and when we found Buff, he was the guy,” Rizuto says. “His color palette exactly matched that of Havaianas, and then when we found his bio on Wikipedia, we discovered he’s originally from Hawaii. Havaianas is Hawaiian in Portuguese. It was too good to be true.”
Building off Havaianas’ current global marketing platform, “Let’s Summer,” the "Boardwalk Shop" is targeted specifically at the U.S. market, says Fernanda "Fefa" Romano, a former agency creative exec who now serves as executive director of digital channels at Alpargatas, Havaianas’ parent company. Globally, the brand is strong—with over 252 million pairs of sandals sold yearly in more than 100 countries. But in the U.S., “we’re very far from where we deserve to be, in my opinion,” she says.
“Our brand awareness is not high, and there are very strong players in the open shoe area,” she adds. “If you go into any store, you’ll find products with thick straps, a bulkier foot.” Havaianas typically feature thinner, more delicate soles. “We need to flip people’s perceptions that maybe we’re not that comfortable. But also, more than anything, show them we’re fun.”
While the campaign first broke in the U.S., Romano is looking to take the idea to other markets, including Havaianas’ native Brazil and India, working with other local artists. The campaign will also include a music video incorporating scenes from the "Boardwalk Shop" activation set to an original tune from Lino Krizz and Wzy, produced by Jamute. It's set to release later this week on TikTok, paid social and via the channels of the talent involved in the project.