Reebok Portrays Nike as Big Brother

Advertiser: Reebok

Agency: Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York

Challenge: Portray Reebok's DMX running shoes as a breakthrough in athletic footwear, a market Nike dominates.

The Ads: Two companion spots, now airing in movie theaters in Los Angeles and elsewhere, portray Nike as Big Brother and Reebok as the wellspring of individuality. In the first ad, an army of clones runs through otherwise empty city streets, past a building that displays 97005--the ZIP Code for Beaverton, Ore., where Nike is based. As the clones progress, a narrator recites a slightly edited version of advice from the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to law students. "As nightfall does not come . . . at once, neither does oppression. It is in such twilight we all must be . . . aware of change in the air." Suddenly, the lead clone cracks like an eggshell and his true self emerges--wearing a Reebok tank top and DMX shoes. The second ad shows fearful clones analyzing the DMX shoe.

Comment: These ads are like Apple Computer's famous "1984" Super Bowl ad, in which the upstart computer company portrayed IBM as Big Brother. The timing was right for Apple, as IBM was several times its size and the year was 1984. Reebok is trying to tap into a backlash against the seemingly omnipresent Nike swoosh. But as the nation's second-largest sneaker company, Reebok is ill-suited for the role of freedom fighter. $+

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