Twenty five years ago this month, the first Nike “Just Do It” commercial created by advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy, featuring 80-year-old Walt Stack, aired on television. AdWeek have a tremendous article on the iconic slogan which questions whether it would it would make the cut in today’s frenetic data driven marketing landscape:
When 80-year-old Walt Stack jogged across the Golden Gate Bridge in Nike’s first “Just do it” spot, chatting about his daily 17-mile run and joking that he kept his teeth from chattering in winter by leaving them in his locker, we lived in a more homogenous media world. At the time it seemed complex and cluttered, with some cable systems sporting 100 or more channels, and the recently launched Fox network broadening the broadcast funnel by 25 percent. All that was small potatoes, however, compared to today’s ever-expanding digital/mobile/shareable/wearable mega-sphere, which has turned each consumer into his or her own media production and distribution channel, and to a large extent—despite the vaunted “social” nature of it all—isolated us instead of bringing us together.
Back in ’88, a news image, song lyric, sitcom catchphrase or advertising slogan could spring to life in a way that’s nearly impossible with today’s media fragmentation. Modern content may be “snackable,” but for the most part it doesn’t stick to the ribs. Most of the lists, memes and apps are quickly, often instantly, discarded. Ideas have no time to build the momentum or gain the traction needed to become ubiquitous or, like “Just do it,” beloved.
The “big idea” is, of course, a marketing cliche. It’s considered old-school and somewhat outmoded, frequently derided by today’s data-driven practitioners. That’s a shame. Big ideas are, first and foremost, big. From a brand standpoint, they add rather than subtract, lending weight and substance to campaigns that can become unfocused and diluted by too many moving parts. Big ideas strengthen individual executions and provide platforms that make campaigns more than the sum of their parts.
Watch the first ever “Just Do It” commercial below:
Notably, Dan Wieden who came up with the slogan got inspiration from an unlikely source: Gary Gilmore, an American who gained notoriety for being executed by firing squad in 1977. Wieden tells the story in the video below. The other video is a fantastic excerpt from the documentary Art and Copy which shows the cultural impact of the “Just Do It” slogan.
[via Wieden + Kennedy]