A Sneaker Saves the Day
Porcupines are generally thought of as prickly fellows - but not JD. He's a fun-loving little guy with a new lease on life thanks to the positive energy found in New Balance's NB zip running shoes. In fact, this positive energy actually saved his life as we see in "Roadkill."
Thirty- and 15-second versions of the Web spot, which began airing in August across multiple platforms and on sites such as ESPN/EXPN, Fox Sports, Facebook, YouTube, Google, AOL AIM and Yahoo, find a young man stopping his car after he realizes he has hit something. Turns out it is ID, who lies lifeless in the road.
The quick-thinking guy takes off his NB Zip running shoes and rubs them together as if they're defibrillator pads. In seconds, they glow red with energy. He places the pads on JD and zaps the porcupine, bringing him back to life.
JD's story continues on NBZIP.com. Emblazoned with the phrase, "Feel the positive energy - it's a better world with the NB Zip around," the colorful site full of rainbows and hummingbirds delves deeper into JD's world.
Features of this campaign, aimed at 12- to 24-year-old male athletes, include a scrapbook, a song, a link to JD's MySpace page and downloads, including a positive energy flag and wrapping paper. Additionally, there is a gallery showcasing New Balance athletic shoes equipped with NB Zip cushioning technology and links to retailers where the shoes can be purchased, as well as a sweepstakes that features a balloon-popping game.
According to Chad Portas, associate creative director and art director at Boston's Almighty, the agency behind the effort, the creative team sought to take NB Zip's "Energy In, Energy Out" tagline and spin it in a different, more entertaining way. "We knew we had to cut through the clutter, and this whole idea of defibrillation and bringing JD back to life was kind of quirky," Portas says. One has to ask: Why a porcupine? After all, the shoes could have brought a person or a more typically cuddly animal like a cat or a dog back to life. "Porcupines have a bad rap because they're so prickly and abrasive, so to flip it and make one cute and cuddly was fun," Portas laughs.
OMMA convened a trio of digital creatives - Organic's Marc Garbarini, Dotglu's Marc Hartzman and Avenue A/Razorfish's Darwin Tomlinson - to see their reactions to JD and NBZIPzip.com. Gathered around a laptop in a Manhattan cafe, we watched the "Roadkill" spot.
OMMA: Now that you've learned JD's backstory, what is your initial reaction to what's going on here on the NB Zip home page?
Garbarini: I love the aesthetic. I think the visuals are taking a risk, and it's positioning an athletic shoe a little different than I've seen. Even though I am a raccoon man, I like the porcupine. But as we're experiencing it, it doesn't ask you to engage. I think that's a missed opportunity. Nothing actually cues you.
Hartzman: I'm not really sure what to do first. It's a lot of searching around. I am intrigued by the porcupine just because it is incredibly random, which I like. I also was surprised when you said this was a male target 12 to 24, only because my first impression with the type and the rainbow and everything was not young and masculine.
Tomlinson: I have a completely different take on the whole thing. I think the commercial was interesting. I actually do think that it hits the 12 to 24 demographic. And this site looks like most of the Nike sites over the last year and a half for that demographic. It looks like what's happening at Urban Outfitters and all that sort of thing. Would I be compelled to come to this site? Only if I was interested in this shoe, but that's me. I agree with these guys in terms of hierarchy, not knowing what to do. But I'm assuming that that's intentional, that there isn't a direct message other than brand experience. So it's more exploratory.
OMMA: In terms of exploring, what do you want to click on first?
Tomlinson: I would definitely roll over the shoe and the porcupine. Tomlinson then rolls over both. While the bottom of the shoe glows red when rolled over, the porcupine does nothing.
Hartzman: I feel like an opportunity was missed here. When you roll over JD, he doesn't do anything. If he said things to you as you're waiting or rolling over him, or he had random actions, it could be funny and give him personality and character that would make us like him more - then we would want to get into some of his stuff like the scrapbook.
We peruse JD's scrapbook and listen to him sing a song.
Hartzman: It's like the singing hamster.
Garbarini: He's doing a better job right now than Britney did [at the VMAs].
OMMA : What do you make of the positive energy approach? Would you agree it stands out as fresh in an athletic shoe world dominated by macho imagery?
Hartzman: I agree that it's a nice change from the macho guy, the athlete. It is quirkier, which I think does play into New Balance because New Balance is not Nike or Adidas or Reebok.
Garbarini: The look here is reminiscent of what's going on in a lot of other places, almost a takeoff on the Honda ["Grrr"] love/hate spot. Remember that almost surreal take on rainbows and unicorns? But what's bumming me out is I'm into positive energy, and I really want to get some, and I applaud the attempt to go from speaking about the positive energy that the sole actually gives you, which is really only explained in the viral part, to the spiritual positive energy. But here's the issue - I need to understand what the sneaker does, and you only really get that a couple of layers in.
Tomlinson: In terms of look and feel they're in the right space for the demographic, and they did a good job in making the shoe a prominent feature, although I would like to do something with it. I'm a sneaker guy, so I need to see it in different angles. It's just a given at this point if you're going to feature a shoe.
Hartzman: It's beautifully designed and the big shoe is good. It would be nice if you could rotate it. I still don't know where the product information is.
OMMA : How would you make that information stand out?
Tomlinson: If you visited and he was worshipping the shoe or something, that would be great. They have the setup here to go the gospel route.
Garbarini: They've got something, but missed an opportunity. They took a risk with the porcupine, but didn't commit, and I wish they would have.