If the Campaign Fits . . .

By Jh/ms Published on .

Converse and agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners unveiled an experiment in what creative director John Butler calls "brand democracy" last month with the launch of www.conversegallery.com, a collection of short films inspired by the Converse brand. "As far back as the pitch, the client said, 'We don't really own the Converse brand, the consumer does,' " Butler explains. "So we said, if you really believe that the consumers own the brand, then let's open up the campaign to consumers." The aim is to capture the enthusiasm that has made Converse's classic Chuck Taylor sneaker an icon identified with everyone from Larry Bird to Kurt Cobain. "We wanted Converse to think of themselves as a patron of the arts" says Butler. "We decided to go right to the source and leverage the huge amounts of creativity this target possesses. Simply put, we've asked consumers to tell us what the brand means to them. And we're happy to pay them $10,000 if we use their message on television."

At the moment, Converse's online gallery includes shorts from the likes of New Yorker cover artist Harry Bliss and video director Alastair McKevitt, as well as a clip from Charles Erdmann and Robin Dafforn, two students at the Miami Ad School. But that's just the beginning. The site includes an open call for new Converse-inspired films, illustrations, music and spoken word poetry. As the copy explains, "with every contribution, the site will evolve and grow. How big? That's entirely up to you."

Select film submissions will air on television with a six-second individually-themed animation from the agency. "People express themselves in different ways," says Butler. "We've gotten everything from narrative stories to animation. Some of it is quite esoteric. We watched almost 200 different 24-second films with our client. It was hard picking the first dozen or so that we launched the campaign with. It's an ongoing process; we're in the midst of another solicitation right now. It's been getting great response. We're getting three or four a day now, it seems."

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