Nike, long known for cutting-edge advertising created with Wieden & Kennedy, this weekend starts a television campaign designed to drive viewers to its Internet site, where they’re invited to choose the ending of a commercial.
Dot-com television advertising, of course, has long aimed to send viewers scrambling to their computers, but this is the first time a traditional advertiser has so aggressively used the Internet for a brand-building experiment. The idea is, as a company statement put it, to turn a 30-second ad experience into a 20-minute interactive experience with the brand.
“This campaign is like nothing we’ve done before,” says Mike Wilskey, Nike’s vice president of US marketing. “It represents an unprecedented step for Nike, as we have integrated ‘traditional’ television advertising with the Internet.”
The campaign, aimed at promoting the company’s new line of cross training shoes, will feature three world class athletes — sprinter Marion Jones, baseball slugger Mark McGwire and snowboarding champ Rob Kingwill.
The athlete talks directly to the viewers, in a bid to lure them into the role of a participant in the action. Then, just as things heat up, the ad fades to black and a message directs viewers to http://whatever.nike.com.
On the Web site, viewers will be able to choose from up to seven different endings for the ad.
The first of the three spots, which debuts during the NFL playoffs on January 15, shows Jones challenging the viewer to a foot race. She then dashes through the streets and alleyways of Santa Monica while people, dogs and glass doors fly by.
The viewer follows, in hot pursuit, as Jones rushes down the beach promenade, dodging street performers and tourists. Suddenly, the viewer slams into a man juggling chainsaws. When the roaring saws fall back to earth, the screen goes dark with a note telling viewers the story is continued at the Web site.
The strategy for this campaign is interesting, because it acknowledges the power of the Web to involve consumers in an interactive relationship with a brand. Of course, there’s also the added benefit, for Nike, that the Web is much more inexpensive than the high-production-values television advertisements.