We spend a lot of time ranting about bad advertising, but sometimes it is nice to give credit where credit is due. So thank you, Nike, for illustrating how to properly market your product to women.
There are a couple things that can make a campaign good rather than just acceptable. While most of the truly hilarious ads seem to be directed at men (we love you, Old Spice Dude, but we're also not your target audience), there are some notable exceptions. Like the recent tampon ad by Kotex. We covered it earlier this month, but for those of you who haven't seen it, here it is again:
Tampons are a hard thing to sell. You can't make blood-plugs sexy, but you can make them look practical, and more importantly, you can draw in female customers with the same tactics used for men.
It's more rare that a company catches our eye by going the opposite way - the serious route. Nike's Rock Victorious campaign features four short, documentary style-videos of famous female athletes. Maria Sharapova, Susanna Kallur, Lianne Sanderson and Serena Williams all get a clip, which shows them training (in Nike duds, obviously), discussing their careers, and posing for a photo shoot. In case you're thinking what's so great about that? take a look:
Steve Hall at Ad Rants says that although Sharapova has come a long way from some of her earlier ads, she is "still being sold as a sex symbol." Although there is a lookist component to the ads (all four of the chosen athletes are undeniably attractive), the focus is not on how she appears to men. There is some application of make up, and a few posing for the camera moments, but they are selling clothes. Clothes are are designed to look attractive, even while performing a vital task - which, one could argue, is also true of men's sporting equipment. Thus, we see Sarapova getting camera-ready, but we also hear her voice, see her in action, and are rewarded with a final shot that is neither sexy nor cutesy.
To take another example, here is the Serena Williams video:
Williams looks amazing. Even if she doesn't fit into the Sharapova-esque standard of traditional hotness, all athletes get the same treatment here. Their looks may play a part, but they are not the main selling point. We're asked instead to see these athletes as whole individuals, complete with ideas about athletics, femininity, and family. But most importantly, I'm pumped to see women openly celebrating victory and competition. The website proclaims: "Winning is contagious. You see it. You burn for it. True champions live for it. Never underestimate the power of victory." Their skills, and their ability to dominate at a particular sport, is what makes these women stand out - and what makes us trust their choice in athletic apparel. What Nike has done may not seem revolutionary, but it proves that there is a way to sell stuff to ladies without resorting to pastels, cliches or Cosmo-ready sex appeal. Give us athletes kicking ass over sexy-face any day (because I don't plan to pout in my sports bra, I plan to sweat in it). Add a couple of interesting/inspirational quotes and mix well. Advertisers, take note.