Nike Tagline Should Lag in Race for Madison Avenue Greatness

Nike's "Just Do It" has been widely lauded as a transcendent tagline, one that inspired so many athletes and took the brand to new heights. It's surely on any list of best advertising catchphrases.

How embarrassing then if one just doesn't get it. How dense that person must feel if he is unable to grasp why the phrase is considered so powerful -- why it is credited with motivating so many slouches to get off their couches, buy some Nikes and begin marathon training or some other grueling endeavor.

"Just Do It" smacks more of a command than a challenge.

The bet is the phrase didn't help Nike so much as Nike's marketing machine - all those ads with all those superstars - helped it. It's plausible the company's millions of dollars in TV spending made the slogan memorable, not because it was clever, but because it was omnipresent.

Yet, "Just Do It" continues to have its fans, presumably even some outside the halls of its creator, agency Wieden + Kennedy. As of Tuesday, it was in third place in the voting among the slogans vying to be inducted into the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame this year.



The Las Vegas tourism bureau's "What Happens Here, Stays Here" is the runaway leader, while Capital One's "What's in Your Wallet" is in second. Vegas deserves its overwhelming lead, baby.

The Capital One line, however, calls to mind the Nike tag, where ubiquity and celebrity (charming Visigoths) are more the drivers than wit.

It's unfathomable that "It's Not TV, It's HBO" is barely rating and the Army's inspiring "Be All That You Can Be" may be doing worse. Taco Bell's "Think Outside the Bun" - double entendres are always great -- also appears to be faltering.

Voting on began Sept. 12 and runs through Friday. Two slogans will make it onto the Walk of Fame, where banners are placed on lamp posts running on New York's Madison Avenue from 42nd Street to 50th.

The competition, which is part of the annual Advertising Week celebration, began in 2004. After some wear and tear, new versions of the 34 existing banners will be unveiled next week along with new inductees.

Two slogans make it in each year with a public vote, along with two icons.

Deciding how to vote for the leading icons this year is easy: Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World" should be number one followed by Subway's "Jared."

Dos Equis has injected itself into bar talk via a guy who provokes endless fascination, while Jared has served as a long-time inspiration, though it may be hard to find someone who's had as much success on a Subway diet as him.

Curiously, Smokey Bear, the Jolly Green Giant, the Keebler Elves and Mr. Clean are all among the icon nominees. Voters these past few years must have been heavily concentrated in the 18-to-34 demo.

If these four get left out for too many more years, a sort of veterans' committee will have to get involved through a special edict.

That brings up the question about the future of advertising taglines and icons. As noted by ad guru Bob Garfield in a USA Today interview, so many ads are being skipped that unforgettable catchphrases could someday become a forgotten concept.

And, marketing stunts on Twitter and Facebook (not to mention banner ads no one pays attention to) generally come with silence. So many taglines and icons become standouts when accompanied by a jingle.

Until extinction, though, it's fun to debate one's favorites and wonder what the legions of "Just Do It" supporters are thinking.

1 comment about "Nike Tagline Should Lag in Race for Madison Avenue Greatness".
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  1. Ira Kalb from Kalb & Associates, September 27, 2011 at 6:20 p.m.

    David, thank you for saying this about the Nike slogan. I couldn't agree more. It adds little value, is a command, does not help anyone to understand what the product is, and does not give buyers any reason to buy the product. Most people that think it is great repeat what they hear from others. They give absolutely no rationale. Congratulations on having the guts to write this.

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