Nike Imitates Dove?

Nike3_081205"Big Butts, Thunder Thighs, Tomboy Knees" –  so reads the headline from an article from AdAge about Nike’s new campaign that tries to imitate Dove’s success by featuring "real" women.

The ads feature copy like this:

"My Butt is big and round like the letter C, and 10,000 lunges have made it rounder but not smaller. And that’s just fine. It’s a space heater for my side of the bed. It’s my ambassador. To those who walk behind me, it’s a border collie that herds skinny women away from the best deals at clothing sales. My butt is big and that’s just fine. And those who might scorn it are invited to kiss it. Just do it.”

Um…..ok.    I’ve never really thought of my butt as a space heater or a border collie – but I’ll try to go with you here. 

This article sparked a furry of IM’s and emails between my colleagues at Future Now and Michele Miller.   Here are some of the very strong opinions expressed about Nike’s new campaign:

Jeff Eisenberg:  Right now these are high impact quotient ads; whether or not the message is on track. How many Dove imitators will it take before the shock value is gone? Am I missing something about saliency?

Michele Miller:  In my humble opinion, the difference between Nike and Dove is that Nike will not be reaching anyone new with their ads – same message, buffed gals in the visuals, and slick creative. As for the copycat syndrome…. next up for Nike?  Employee Pricing!  🙂

Lisa Davis:  Interesting stuff.  I think anything that makes an appeal to real women confined to real bodies will communicate empathy, and to the extent any company offers that "understanding" as part of its messaging, women will respond in droves.  "Be the best you can be" – reinforcing the benefits of exercise (Nike) and personal care (Dove), while at the same time celebrating the inherent raw "material" of our physiology – is a far more compelling message than "be this cardboard cut-out of stereotyped beauty."

I’m not sure saliency is the critical factor in this – any competent exercise shoe or personal care product line would do.  But Nike and Dove have been the first to capitalize on the empathy factor in a big, dramatic way.  Their ability to empathize fuels the value of the brand.  Shock value?  Yes, for an approach that currently steps outside conventional modes of appreciating "beauty."  Longevity value?  Messages that speak to the dog in the language of the dog about what matters to the heart of the dog always have staying power.

My hesitation kicks in only when I try to identify with the communicated value that, for example, having a big butt means there are more items on the clearance rack for me.  This smacks of making a virtue of something that I’d rather not have to acknowledge as a good thing … along the lines of telling me that my post-divorce lifestyle is great because I can now eat whatever and whenever I want, when what I’m really hungering for is someone to share my life with me.  No woman (or person, for that matter) responds well to manufactured silver linings.  Remove the sops, however, and I’m there, feeling understood and gobbling it up!  Might just go buy myself a pair of Nike shoes to thank them for understanding me!  🙂

Finally, excerpts from Holly Buchanan’s IM with Jeff Eisenberg – note – neither one of us is going to win the "Miss Manners" award so I’ve edited out some of the less than politically correct comments, but left enough juicy stuff to make it interesting. 

Jeff: Good morning. I sent you what might be a stupid email.

Holly: and this is unusual how?

Jeff: It’s not just general stupidity it’s the classic male/ female stupidity.

Holly  : my favorite kind

Jeff:  am I offbase?  They have no substance this is just style.  at this point it’s an attention grabbing gimmick

Holly: If it were from someone other than Nike – I would agree

Jeff:  they are mostly style – these are still sexist -put a bigger woman in an ad and don’t make a deal of it and now we’re talking

Holly : I agree with most of what you’re saying.  Without having really read or seen the ads – I think the headlines are sexist.  Dove did a better job with "real women, real curves"

Jeff: Steinem agrees with me

Holly:  I actually part ways a tad with Steinem on this – yes -they wouldn’t put a man in an ad, but men don’t have the body image problems women do

Jeff: and by the way, there is NOTHING wrong with that butt

Holly  : are you a "big butt" man?


Jeff:  it’s just that she doesn’t look like an 11 year old boy.  I think most men have a wider range of what they like than fashion magazines

Holly  : amen

Holly  : I think the last line is the real question "do you advertise for desire, or do you advertise toward reality"

Jeff: everybody is now going to do these kinds of ads and they will stop working

Jeff:  I think you always advertise towards desire

Jeff: the Dove girls are aspirational – a little bit more perfect but attainable – attainble has appeal

Holly  : you hit the nail on the he

Holly: I think you’re right about the "copy cat" let’s advertise to real women – Nike has always made an effort to speak to real women – but I can now see every tom dick and harry jumping in.  it won’t be sincere and it will lose all of its appeal and backfire – just as you said

Jeff:   it’s a shame – they’ll conclude "near reality" doesn’t work – they won’t say it’s their lack of understanding

That’s what was being swapped around in our office – what were you saying about the Nike ads?

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34 Responses to Nike Imitates Dove?

  1. Mary Schmidt says:

    I give them points for trying to “reach” the so-called real women. But, there’s a difference between showing it and saying it. (To a point y’all discussed in the IMs). The Nike message sounds angry and defensive – not encouraging or empathic. “Sure, I’ve GOT A BIG BUTT…you skinny broads want to make something of it? Uh?” “I’m WALKIN’ HEAH!” I find this depressing and offensive as both a marketer and a woman (with a – ahem – rather large rear bumper). But (no pun intended), if we can thank J Lo for nothing else (and, nope, I can’t come up anything else either), she’s made it okay for us to have larger bottoms than tops! Just show ’em – don’t bellow about ’em.

  2. Nike’s New Ad Campaign

    I found myself in the midst of an email blizzard yesterday with the launch of Nike’s new ad campaign, “Big Butts, Thunder Thighs, and Tomboy Knees.” I had barely turned on my laptop when the email avalanche began. Had I

  3. Hacks and Doves

    I promised myself that I was not going to be a me-too guy and attack the Dove campaign on this blog. Reading about Nike’s entry into the “real woman” ad game has me wondering if we might be missing the

  4. Every Tom, Dick and Harry…that’s my favorite part. He said Dick!!!
    This ad is stupid. Sorry Gloria… Nike is way off base. Attention getting? They don’t need the attention. Puh-lease! That’s like saying Tiger Woods need to get nude to get attention.
    I’ll repeat what I wrote in my blog post the other day: women want respect and honesty. This ad is not respectful — accusing women of using their rear end to clear out the clearance aisle???? And it isn’t honest — those bodies are NOT relfective of the average woman. We have droopy butts (if we have butts), boobs that fight with gravity and lose, and and if we have thunder thighs…we sure don’t advertise it!
    Hello…world to Gloria and Nike: next time call Lip-sticking and we’ll supply the real women — no, really.

  5. K. Barrett says:

    Talk about sexist objectification. Way to go Nike. You’ve created a campaign that literally slices women up visually and defines them by their body parts instead of who they are. Is there also a hidden agenda in the way the photography, coloring, and text has been treated to target minorities? Women don’t see themselves as body parts. We have men for that. Real women are whole. And they are more than the sum of their parts. That’s a story worth telling.

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  18. Hahahaha! The way Dove puts it, makes sense. But when Nike does it…it’s contradicting. But A for effort!

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