Nordstrom's quirky new campaign puts human expression center stage

The spot from Droga5 dropped during E!'s 'Live From the Red Carpet' at the Oscars

Published On
Feb 25, 2019

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While the Oscars red carpet was in full swing with gorgeous fashion Sunday night, department store Nordstrom took the opportunity to express what comprises the "best look" in a quirky new campaign from Droga5.

During the E! "Live From the Red Carpet" show, the brand debuted the first spot of its new campaign, "An Open Mind Is the Best Look," which takes an atypical marketing approach for a department store.

Its anchor is a two-minute film set in a performance class, where the instructor coaxes a motley group into expressing themselves without fear. "Mean what you say … I wanna have a human experience!" the instructor says, nudging the students to form a human sculpture, connect with each other, become animals, and be themselves.

It's hard, at first, to discern exactly what's going on, because the spot is intercut with strange, slightly off-kilter scenes from elsewhere: Two natty young men ride atop a rover in the park as a stylish elderly gentleman gives an approving look; a boy tries on some sunglasses, swiped from his sleeping nana's face; young men and women learn sign language; cowboys dance and wrangle at a late-night rodeo. The scenes, backed by a spare piano track, intertwine with the everyday performance of human self-expression.

"The campaign is intended to celebrate individuality and human connections and convey that as a brand that comes to life through people, we welcome all to express themselves through personal style," says Nordstrom CMO Scott Meden. "We hope that through these ideas we will inspire an emotional connection with new customers and engage those we already know."

The effort will run through June and also includes an assortment of cutdowns and equally quirky beauty-focused ads.

Droga5 Executive Creative Director Alexander Nowak says that the goal is to go against the grain of the exclusivity of luxury department stores and the expected product pushing and instead, move toward a "more story- and humanity-led approach." Such stories aim to celebrate how people present themselves to the world as well as "their innate curiosity in one another" and where that curiosity can take them.

The campaign's focus on an "open mind" dovetails with Nordstrom's approach to its own retail experience--one "where everyone is welcome, where people, styles and ideas crisscross, where high fashion meets low fashion," Nowak says.

The agency worked with director Martin de Thurah, known for his sophisticated storytelling that brings a sense of poetry to real-world scenarios, as seen in his spots for Hennessy and Under Armour.

All those featured in the film wore wares available at Nordstrom. Casting was crucial, Nowak says: The team looked at hundreds of people and ultimately landed on a cast of nonprofessional and part-time actors. "We chose people on the strength of their real lives and their real stories, and for the genuine connection we felt from each person," he adds.

Among those featured are Alan, the sign language instructor, who in real life grew up in a religious household with two deaf parents. During the shoot, Carol, the improv teacher, became the unlikely beacon of the film's story. Her "wise words hit us on such a deep emotional level that we had no choice but to use [them] as the guiding voice throughout the film," Nowak says. "We initially had no plan to use it, but when we put it to picture, the realness of her words made it impossible not to use. We essentially embraced our own idea of keeping an open mind throughout the whole creative process."