Why aren’t more ads like Nike’s Kobe System?
Campaign: The Kobe System
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
By Jess Bennett
The team at Hawkblocker has posted about when ads mock ads, and the technique’s varying degrees of success. A similar approach that can prove fruitful is when celebrities mock ads – and acknowledge their own participation in the process of selling products.
The team at Nike upped the ante recently, in a series of videos that were released to launch “The Kobe System”, featuring Kobe “White Hot” Bryant. The “system” is essentially a sneaker that has two different inserts, which are claimed to assist wearers with either speed or performance. The accompanying slogan is: “Attack Fast. Attack strong.”
The video series features Bryant as a motivational speaker who challenges his audience not to “settle for the top,” but to push themselves further and take it “over the top”. Bryant’s “class” features tier-A celebrities like Kanye West, Serena Williams, skateboarder Paul Rodriguez, comedian Aziz Ansari, and Virgin CEO Richard Branson. Bryant speaks to them pedantically, even condescendingly.
It’s a delight to watch how over-the-top and ridiculous the “system” is. It’s a form of meta-advertising, which proves successful because it grants the viewer a certain level of intelligence and understanding. Celebrities as real people? That’s great. Celebrities as real people who have senses of humour? Even better. Celebrates who engage in humourous self-deprecation? Best of all!
This form of advertising is not by any means new. Nike arguably pioneered the tactic in the 90s, starting with the seminal “It’s not the shoes” campaign, featuring Michael Jordan and Spike Lee.
It seems that the more celebrities are able to distance themselves from the promotion, within the constraints of the advertisement, the more the ad seems to resonate with us as viewers. This all raises the question of why we don’t see this approach used more commonly.
Any thoughts on why that is? Do you find the videos for the Kobe System refreshing? Or are they too over the top? (And isn’t that the point?)