Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


The Allstate Corporation, America’s longtime number two auto insurer, faced new challenges in the 1990s when competitors such as GEICO and the Progressive Corporation blanketed television with spots playing up the low prices of their policies. Long reliant on its slogan ‘‘You’re in Good Hands,’’ Allstate found itself in need of a brand refurbishing to counteract the inroads made by these direct marketers. In November 2003 Allstate released the ‘‘Our Stand’’ marketing campaign, its first to feature a celebrity spokesperson, actor Dennis Haysbert, known for playing the president of the United States on the hit television series . While ‘‘Our Stand’’ included radio, print, and Internet elements, the core of the campaign was the television spots featuring Haysbert. The spots offered a soft sell in which Haysbert made the case that price was not everything when it came to buying car insurance—a relationship with an agent was important as well—and vouched for Allstate’s integrity and commitment to take a stand for customers and promote their interests. Although the company did not reveal the advertising budget for the campaign, Allstate was reported in the press to have increased its ad budget 56 percent to more than $120 million in 2003, a level it maintained in 2004 and 2005.
‘‘Our Stand’’ helped Allstate reestablish its position in the marketplace. The company reported that the number of consumers contacting Allstate through its sales agents, website, and call center had increased after the campaign began, but it did not provide any financial data to support the claim. Haysbert’s contract was extended through 2006, however, indicating that the company was pleased with the campaign’s effectiveness.

Allstate was credited with having the oldest surviving tagline in paid advertising: ‘‘You’re in Good Hands with Allstate,’’ which dated back to 1951, when a print ad first depicted a pair of hands cradling an automobile. (The oldest tagline in use was ‘‘Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires,’’ a long-standing public-service effort produced by the Advertising Council; it had been used since 1947.) Throughout its history Allstate and its rivals produced advertising that was serious in tone, emphasizing such company virtues as trust and reliability and never mentioning price. Then, in the 1990s, GEICO, a direct marketer of car insurance ranked seventh in sales, upset the status quo by bombarding the television airways with humorous commercials that challenged the likes of number two Allstate and market leader State Farm solely on the basis of price. The Progressive Corporation soon followed suit, and Allstate came under increasing pressure to protect its market share.
To keep its slogan fresh and maintain relevance in the marketplace, Allstate offered variations on the ‘‘Good Hands’’ theme. The insurer also dabbled with celebrity endorsers. In 2001, for example, Allstate began a television, print, and radio advertising campaign that used the tagline ‘‘The Right Hands Make All the Difference.’’ The advertisements featured football players Joe Montana and Jerry Rice as well as inventor Ann Lai, all of who whom relied on their hands in their professions. But the ‘‘Right Hands’’ campaign failed to stem a drop in Allstate policyholder growth, and after 18 months it was retired, replaced by the ‘‘Our Stand’’ campaign, which was the first Allstate advertising campaign to center on a celebrity spokesperson: actor Dennis Haysbert. An African-American, Haysbert had acted in numerous films and television shows since getting his break in 1979, when he first appeared on the television series The White Shadow. But he achieved true celebrity status in 2001, when he was cast in the television series 24 to play Senator David Palmer, a character who would later become president. At the core of Palmer’s character was moral integrity, an attribute that viewers associated with Haysbert the actor and that thus made him an ideal advocate for Allstate’s message. Jill Weaver, Allstate’s vice president of brand strategy, was quoted in a press release as saying that Haysbert embodied ‘‘the spirit of the Allstate brand. Experienced, honest, and understanding, with a sense of strength and conviction.’’

The ‘‘Our Stand’’ campaign sought to update the brand image of Allstate while appealing to a more diverse customer base. In essence, auto insurers were faced with the difficult task of reaching one of the broadest markets imaginable: anyone who drove a car, whether they were male or female, young or old, and regardless of ethnicity. In this regard Haysbert was a good choice as spokesperson; he had wide appeal, even with younger consumers, despite the fact that he was born in 1954. Allstate’s main pitch was that picking an insurance company was more involved than just choosing the lowest price. More important, the company argued, was the service a policyholder could expect and the integrity of the insurance agents and of the company that stood behind them. Hence, the ‘‘Our Stand’’ target audience was somewhat older than the demographic targeted by GEICO and Progressive. This older market also had more money to spend on car insurance and placed greater value on a relationship with a broker and the solidity of the insurance company backing the policy.

In terms of market share, State Farm was Allstate’s top rival. It controlled about 18.5 percent of the market in 2004, compared with Allstate’s 10 percent. Next in line were Progressive with 7.1 percent and GEICO with 5.5 percent. Rounding out the top 10 in direct premiums written were Farmers Insurance Group (4.9 percent), Nationwide Group (4.5 percent), United Services Automobile Association Group (3.5 percent), American International Group (3 percent), Liberty Mutual Group (2.8 percent), and American Family Insurance Group (2.2 percent). All insurers were boosting their marketing budgets, eager to take business from each other, a result in large measure of the increasing profitability of the autoinsurance business. Because cars had become better built, they needed less repairs and were involved in fewer accidents. Consequently, insurance companies had fewer claims to pay out. Moreover, America’s population was growing older, resulting in people driving slower, again leading to a decrease in accidents, greater profits for insurers, and a heated scramble to peel away the customers of rivals.
In addition, Allstate, State Farm, and other old-guard broker-based insurers found themselves competing against the likes of GEICO and Progressive in another way. Mya Frazier reported in Advertising Age, ‘‘It’s a battle of the business model, pitting the call-center row of headsetwearing operators taking claims and signing on new customers against neighborhood agents who know a customer’s kids and may even be a neighbor. It’s pitting Internet price quotes [against] in-office consultations and the yearly search for a best price [against] a lifetime relationship with an agent.’’ It was at this fundamental level that the ‘‘Our Stand’’ campaign made its case with consumers.

Allstate’s venerable slogan ‘‘You’re in Good Hands With Allstate’’ was inspired by an incident in life of one of the company’s general sales managers, Davis W. Ellis. In the spring of 1950 his youngest daughter was hospitalized with hepatitis. To ease his concern his wife told him not to worry: ‘‘We’re in good hands with the doctor.’’ That remark came to mind later in the year when Allstate was struggling to coin a slogan for its first national advertising campaign. Ellis shared the story about his daughter, and soon the company had settled on a slogan that endured for well over half a century.

In answer to GEICO and Progressive’s blitz of advertising focusing on price, Allstate’s ‘‘Our Stand’’ campaign made an emotional appeal to urge consumers to re-evaluate what was really important in insurance. Lisa Cochrane, the insurer’s assistant vice president of marketing communications, told American Banker reporter Lee Ann Gjertsen, ‘‘We know that customers are looking for more than just a low price; they need good value, good protection. That’s why they buy insurance or financial security products.’’ At the same time, Cochrane noted, Allstate believed that ‘‘quality insurance should be affordable.’’ A secondary purpose of the campaign was to promote research that, according to Allstate, revealed that 70 percent of customers who switched to Allstate saved $200. Moreover, because Allstate had in recent years become involved in banking and financial services, the ‘‘Our Stand’’ campaign served to build general awareness of what Allstate had to offer in addition to its core autoinsurance business.
The ‘‘Our Stand’’ campaign broke in November 2003. The crux of it was the television spots anchored by Haysbert, but the company also included radio spots that began airing later in the month, print ads that debuted in early 2004, and Internet executions. The first four TV spots were shot and produced by Sam Mendes, the director of the Oscar-winning film American Beauty. These initial spots set the serious tone of the more than 20 spots featuring Haysbert. In the spot titled ‘‘Pay Phone,’’ Allstate took a subtle dig at GEICO and its telephone-based operation. The camera slowly zoomed in on Haysbert standing next to a pay phone on a dark, deserted stretch of road. In a low-key voice he asked, ‘‘If you needed your insurance, who would you call? Not the name of the company, but the name of the person? You got two seconds. Coming up blank? You may want to consider Allstate . . . You deserve a relationship with a real person. That’s Allstate’s stand. Are you in good hands?’’ A wide shot of the scene capped the commercial, with the Allstate logo and ‘‘You’re in Goods Hands’’ tagline offering a counterpoint to Haysbert’s final question. A number of other commercials featuring Haysbert followed. In ‘‘Chop Shop’’ he stood in a dank garage where thieves ripped apart a stolen SUV to sell for parts, and he spoke about Allstate’s 600-person fraud team. In ‘‘Guardrail’’ he stood next to a crumpled highway guardrail to talk about Allstate’s 20 percent discount for people with good driving records. The spot called ‘‘Boiling Turkey’’ showed Haysbert in a backyard with a deep-fat turkey fryer, which was used to illustrate the potential of holiday mishaps, whether they were caused by fryers or car accidents on icy roads. In ‘‘Life Raft’’ he compared Allstate to a life raft and other insurers, such as GEICO, to little more than a circular life preserver—a zero. In addition, the spot promoted new policy features that dovetailed with the marketing campaign: Accident Forgiveness, which prevented rates from increasing in the event of an accident, and New Car Replacement, so that if a car was ‘‘totaled’’ the policyholder received a new car rather than a check that deducted appreciation. Allstate built on the ‘‘Our Stand’’ campaign in 2004 and 2005. Haysbert appeared in television, radio, and print advertisements that were specifically aimed at African-Americans. Because research indicated that these consumers relied heavily on the referral of family and friends when buying car insurance, the advertisements centered on family reunions. Also in 2004 Allstate targeting the Hispanic market by airing four Spanish-language television spots featuring actor Esai Morales. The tagline for these executions was ‘‘As´ı piensa Allstate’’ (That’s what Allstate believes). The Hispanic component of the ‘‘Our Stand’’ campaign also included radio, print, and outdoor elements. In addition, the ‘‘Our Stand’’ campaign was used in 2005 to introduce a new Allstate product: Your Choice Auto Insurance, which could be customized to suit individual needs.

Allstate was pleased with the ‘‘Our Stand’’ campaign.
The television spots polled well with consumers. According to USA Today ’s Ad Track survey, 17 percent of consumers liked the commercials ‘‘a lot.’’ While that number was below the Ad Track average of 21 percent, it represented a strong showing in a category that consumers generally did not like. The campaign was also recognized by advertising trade publication Adweek, which named ‘‘Boiling Turkey’’ a ‘‘Best Spot’’ in December 2003. Haysbert’s work was also much appreciated by Allstate. In fall 2005 the company renewed his contract to serve as Allstate spokesperson through the end of 2006. The most important measure of the campaign’s success, however, was to be found on Allstate’s balance sheet. While the company reported no hard numbers, it did note in its 2003 annual report, ‘‘[R]eaction, as measured by increased contact with agencies,, and 1-800-Allstate, has been positive.’’ Allstate had pulled the plug on the previous marketing campaign after 18 months, so the fact that the company renewed its commitment to Haysbert through 2006 indicated that the ‘‘Our Stand’’ campaign was having an appreciable effect on Allstate’s bottom line.


Dunkin’ Donuts, the wholly owned subsidiary of the United Kingdom–based Allied Domecq PLC, reigned in 2000 as the world’s largest coffee-and-baked-goods chain. With 3,500 outlets and $2 billion in annual sales, the quick-service restaurant was outperforming competitors such as Starbucks Coffee Company and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. Even though Starbucks and Krispy Kreme were rising in popularity, executives at Dunkin’ Donuts remained undaunted. They believed that Dunkin’ Donuts’ customers preferred the chain’s low prices and rapidly prepared drinks, such as its Dunkin’ Donuts Dunkaccino, an adaptation of a cafe´ mocha. After a survey conducted by the ad agency Hill, Holliday, Connors & Cosmopulos of Boston revealed that most customers considered Dunkin’ Donuts a respite from their everyday anxieties, Dunkin’ Donuts released its ‘‘Loosen Up a Little’’ campaign to brand its stores as a place to relax. The $60 million campaign was created by Hill, Holliday, Connors & Cosmopulos (often referred to as Hill Holliday) and targeted several different demographics. It first appeared during Labor Day weekend in 2000. The campaign’s television, radio, outdoor, and print advertisements suggested that its audience ‘‘Loosen Up a Little’’ with Dunkin’ Donuts. One spot featured a woman smearing cream cheese in the shape of a smiley face on a high-strung businessman’s jacket. In another spot a man removed his toupee during a coffee break, while in a different spot a businessman licked the jelly filling from his tie. Posters were hung inside elevators in office buildings throughout New England. The campaign included a fantasy-sports promotion that offered encounters with professional athletes such as the football linebacker Ted Johnson of the New England Patriots. Commercials for the campaign aired across major U.S. markets during the season premieres of the hit TV shows ER, Friends, and Law & Order.
‘‘Loosen Up a Little’’ ended prematurely in August 2002 because Dunkin’ Donuts executives considered the tagline ‘‘Loosen Up a Little’’ to be inappropriate for the advertising climate following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Nonetheless, the campaign helped Dunkin’ Donuts generate more than $2.7 billion in sales for the 2001 fiscal year and record a 7 percent sales growth for 2002. It also earned a plethora of awards at the 2002 Francis W. Hatch Awards, which recognized New England’s best ad campaigns.

Founded in 1950, Dunkin’ Donuts grew to become a leading quick-service restaurant on the East Coast. One of the chain’s longest-running campaigns, created by the ad agency Ally & Gargano, New York, featured ‘‘Fred the baker,’’ played by actor Michael Vale. The 15-year campaign used more than 200 spots, and in many Fred uttered the refrain ‘‘Time to make the doughnuts’’ early in the morning.
In 1989, while that campaign was underway,
Dunkin’ Donuts was purchased by Allied Domecq, the world’s second-largest alcohol distiller. Dunkin’ Donuts was not the only quick-service restaurant owned by the British enterprise. Allied Domecq had also acquired the ice-cream giant Baskin-Robbins and the sandwich chain Togo’s Eateries. In 1997, when Dunkin’ Donuts began expanding its offerings beyond just doughnuts and drip coffee, the chain ended its ‘‘Fred the Baker’’ campaign. New menu items helped Dunkin’ Donuts increase sales by 10 percent in 1998. That same year Dunkin’ Donuts awarded its advertising account to Hill, Holliday, Connors & Cosmopulos. The agency’s copywriter Marty Donohue and art director Tim Foley successfully pitched commercial ideas to Dunkin’ Donuts executives. One spot was about a police car chase that ended at Dunkin’ Donuts. Another commercial depicted a construction site past which beautiful women walked unnoticed, yet when a man carrying Dunkin’ Donuts Coolata drinks passed by, construction workers began whistling and hollering. Dunkin’ Donuts vice president of marketing Eddie Binder praised Foley and Donohue in Adweek for their lighthearted, humorous approach. ‘‘They just got it. They understood the brand,’’ he said. Some of the agency’s first work for Dunkin’ Donuts included a doughnut-naming promotion in which participants were eligible for either $50,000 or a lifetime supply of Dunkin’ Donuts. The promotion included the commercial ‘‘Ski Lodge,’’ which featured a woman using her beauty to dupe men out of Dunkaccinos. The ad agency conducted a survey that revealed that many Dunkin’ Donuts customers considered their shopping experience inside Dunkin’ Donuts as a ‘‘break from reality.’’ The survey results became the impetus for the upcoming ‘‘Loosen Up a Little’’ campaign.

The campaign included several executions to reach three distinct target markets. First, a poster execution appeared inside the elevators of 69 office buildings on the East Coast in early 2001. The posters, along with a majority of the campaign’s commercials, targeted what the ad critic David Gianatasio referred to in Adweek as ‘‘stressed-out urbanites.’’ The posters suggested that in the hectic lives of most workers, Dunkin’ Donuts offered a desirable place to ‘‘Loosen Up a Little.’’ By placing the posters in elevators, in which many business professionals spent a few minutes every work day, the campaign targeted what Dunkin’ Donuts field marketers called a ‘‘captive’’ target. Marty Donohue of Hill Holiday explained the timeliness of the campaign to the Boston Globe: ‘‘Dot-coms were rampant, and people were under a lot of stress. Dunkin’ Donuts was seen as a safe haven.’’ The campaign also targeted a demographic that Hill Holliday dubbed the ‘‘regular guy.’’ While Starbucks sold premium coffee drinks such as the cafe´ mocha for an average price of $3, Dunkin’ Donuts sold its equivalent, the Dunkaccino (a mixture of coffee, milk, and chocolate), for about $1.50. Dunkin’ Donuts was considered by its marketing department to be a brand for the mass market. To effectively reach this target, the campaign included ‘‘one-of-a-kind’’ sports-fantasy prizes. One prize allowed participants to win tickets to a Celtics basketball game and sit with Nomar Garciaparra of the Red Sox. Similar prizes included interactions with Ted Johnson of the Patriots, Paul Pierce of the Celtics, and Joey Franchino of the New England Revolution. ‘‘We’re the regular guy’s brand, so sports becomes a big part of getting access to our customer,’’ Dunkin’ Donuts vice president Ken Kimmel explained to the Boston Globe. The campaign’s third target included the East Coast’s burgeoning Latino community. Select spots that were originally filmed in English were later released with Spanish voice-overs on Hispanic television networks. The Latino community of Boston, the city with the most Dunkin’ Donut stores in America, had expanded from an estimated 36,000 Latinos in 1980 to 85,000 in 2000.

With the emergence of TiVo, a product that allowed audiences to skip unwanted television commercials, advertisers began creating new opportunities for television advertising. Coca-Cola reportedly spent $13 million to place its soft drink on the judges’ table on Fox’s hit reality show American Idol. Dunkin’ Donuts, the world’s largest coffee-and-baked-goods chain, paid to have its coffee placed on the reality television show High School Reunion. Phil Risinger, director of advertising for Dunkin’ Donuts, noted in the Boston Globe that the Dunkin’ Donuts’ product placement on the show was not intrusive. ‘‘It’s not in your face,’’ he explained. ‘‘They’re doing what folks do in the morning. They’re drinking coffee.’’

In October 2001 Starbucks was aggressively adding new stores to its existing 3,000 locations in North America. Advertising analysts were amazed by Starbuck’s ability to expand the specialty-coffee retail industry with relatively little advertising. Executives at Starbucks firmly believed that word-of-mouth advertising was more effective than paid advertising. Therefore, instead of financing exorbitant campaigns, Starbucks spent operating costs on its enjoyable in-store environment, premium coffee-based products, and unparalleled customer service. From 2001 to 2002 alone, sales for Starbucks jumped from $2.6 billion to $3.3 billion.
When Starbucks did advertise, it was usually in partnership with other major brands. In 2000 Starbucks formed an exclusive relationship with the New York Times. In exchange for publishing print ads announcing new Starbucks drinks and holiday gift cards, the New York Times became the sole newspaper sold inside Starbucks. To compete with Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks temporarily sold the popular Krispy Kreme doughnuts inside select Starbucks stores. The relationship ended after Krispy Kreme announced its own line of espresso beverages. In 2002 the North American Coffee Partnership, a joint venture between Starbucks and PepsiCo, released its first television advertising campaign, which promoted bottled Frappuccino and Starbucks DoubleShot drinks. The campaign included print ads, four 15-second TV spots, and one 30-second spot.

Commercials for ‘‘Loosen Up a Little’’ first aired during Labor Day weekend in 2000. In addition to television spots, the $60 million campaign included radio, outdoor, and print advertisements. One of the campaign’s lead creatives, Marty Donohue, explained in an interview with Adweek that the campaign aimed to brand Dunkin’ Donuts as ‘‘little comfort zones. Not a serious place, but a place people go every day’’ to escape the stressfulness of life. Donohue and Foley led a team of 12 copywriters and art directors for ‘‘Loosen Up a Little’’ and hired the acclaimed commercial director Noam Murro of Biscuit Filmworks to direct the spots.
One of the first spots featured a man who took advantage of being stuck in a traffic jam by leaving his car to fetch a Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast. ‘‘The work probes a little deeper into the human condition than previous Dunkin’ ads, while retaining the humor and freshness of the earlier work,’’ Foley told Adweek. Storylines for the commercials were created from the agency’s ‘‘honest assessment’’ of real-life customer experiences, he added. In a television spot titled ‘‘Smile,’’ two obnoxious business executives discussed a meeting that was taking place later that day. ‘‘I am stoked. Locked and loaded,’’ the more brazen of the two exclaimed. The bus lurched, and a woman standing behind the man accidentally smeared Dunkin’ Donuts cream cheese on his jacket. ‘‘Hey, why don’t you watch yourself,’’ he snapped. The woman then appeared to scrape the cream cheese off his jacket. When the man exited the bus, however, it was revealed that she had only shaped the cream cheese into a smiley face.
Later in the 2000 holiday season another spot featured Christmas carolers trying to eat doughnuts while singing. By the spot’s end their words had become unintelligible. Commercials aired on network channels during the season premieres of shows such as ER, Friends, and Law & Order. The campaign targeted what advertising critics referred to as ‘‘stressed-out urbanites.’’ Posters promoting Dunkaccinos and the chain’s ‘‘Coffee by the Pound’’ offering were posted inside elevators of 69 East Coast office buildings. To target Boston’s expanding Latino community, commercials were rereleased with Spanish voice-overs across Spanish-language television networks.
In 2001 the campaign targeted what the creatives from Hill Holliday referred to as the ‘‘regular guy.’’ ‘‘Peel-and-win’’ stickers that allowed participants to win sports-fantasy prizes were placed on Dunkin’ Donuts drinks. Prizes for the promotion included opportunities with athletes from six of New England’s professional sports teams. One prize offered several hours of soccer coaching from Kristine Lilly of the Boston Breakers. Another prize included the ice-hockey captain Joe Thornton of the Bruins delivering coffee and doughnuts to the winner’s office.

Advertising critics, Hill Holliday, and executives from Dunkin’ Donuts all considered ‘‘Loosen Up a Little’’ to be a success. Dunkin’ Donuts exceeded $2.7 billion in sales for the 2001 fiscal year. It also posted a 7 percent sales increase for the beginning of 2002, outperforming the collective growth rate of 3 percent for the entire quick-service-restaurant industry. Overall sales for Allied Domecq, the owner of Dunkin’ Donuts, jumped from $3.8 billion in 2000 to $5.2 billion in 2002. The campaign also collected a variety of awards at the 2002 Hatch Awards, which recognized New England’s best ad campaigns. Unfortunately for Dunkin’ Donuts, the campaign ended prematurely in August 2002. The company’s executives deemed the tagline ‘‘Loosen Up a Little’’ too irreverent in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
When Dunkin’ Donuts began its ‘‘Just the Thing’’ campaign in August 2002, creatives at Hill Holiday explained the shortcomings of the ‘‘Loosen Up a Little’’ campaign to the Boston Globe. ‘‘The problem was, though, you had to spend half your 30 seconds talking about how hectic life was. You had to explain it and set it up. That left us with only 15 seconds to talk about the product. ‘Just the Thing’ gets to the point quickly,’’ Marty Donohue said. ‘‘It’s wonderfully simple and you get it right off the bat. It’s so perfectly Dunkin’ Donuts. The new tagline is as comforting as a doughnut and a cup of coffee.’’


AirTran Airways took to the skies in 1997 following the merger of AirTran, a small carrier serving 11 cities from its base in Orlando, Florida, and ValuJet, a discount carrier struggling to rebuild after the crash of one of its planes. Within two years AirTran was emerging as a strong competitor in the discount airline market, and the trouble-plagued ValuJet was fading into memory. By 1999 AirTran served 30 cities with 280 daily flights, and plans were under way to replace its entire fleet of planes with newer aircraft. AirTran’s revenues were also steadily increasing, as passengers came back to the carrier. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, which involving the hijackings of four commercial aircraft, AirTran was one of the few U.S. airlines to report rising income, with revenues of $733 million in 2002. To help with the transition from ValuJet to AirTran, the airline hired the Milwaukee office of Cramer-Krasselt to create a rebranding campaign. The initial effort, ‘‘It’s Something Else,’’ was launched in 1997. As the success of the rebranding effort became apparent, Cramer-Krasselt replaced ‘‘It’s Something Else’’ in 2000 with a new campaign, ‘‘Your Airline Has Arrived.’’ To increase consumer awareness of AirTran’s low prices and services, promoted as helping to make travel easy and affordable, the $23 million ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You’’ campaign was launched in 2003.

The humorous ads that formed the ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You’’ campaign were a hit with consumers and industry watchdogs alike. Included were television and radio spots, as well as print, outdoor, and Internet ads. The campaign received a 2004 Gold EFFIE Award and in the month after its launch was recognized by Boards Magazine as one of the top spots.

In June 1993 ValuJet joined the ranks of discount airline carriers when its first flight took off, traveling between Atlanta, Georgia, and Tampa, Florida. With its low fares and reliable service, the airline quickly grew in popularity with consumers. But ValuJet was plagued with problems, including planes that slid off runways and a fire on one flight. Then, in May 1996, tragedy struck ValuJet when one of its airliners crashed into the Florida Everglades, killing all 110 people onboard. Following the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded ValuJet while the airline’s maintenance and safety procedures were investigated. The airline’s operating license was returned in September 1996, but travelers deserted ValuJet amid ongoing fears of safety problems. Soon after its license was restored, ValuJet announced plans to merge with AirTran, a small carrier based in Orlando. The ValuJet name was dropped, and the carrier began operation in 1997 as AirTran Airways.

The Milwaukee office of Cramer-Krasselt was hired to help reshape the airline and win back wary travelers. The agency replaced ValuJet’s agency, Atlanta-based Hughes Advertising. Cramer-Krasselt’s initial campaign included references to the ValuJet name. ‘‘It would have been disastrous if we had tried to cover up the connection and then had it leak out that AirTran was flying ValuJet planes,’’ Peter Krivkovich, president of Cramer-Krasselt, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The initial campaign, ‘‘It’s Something Else,’’ had such taglines as ‘‘By the time we’re through reinventing ValuJet, you won’t even recognize it . . . New Management. New thinking. New airline.’’ The effort helped put the airline back on track, but by October 1998 its flights were still taking off only slightly more than half full.
Undaunted, AirTran pushed ahead. In 2000

Cramer-Krasselt created a new campaign to replace ‘‘It’s Something Else.’’ This $8 million campaign, under the title ‘‘Your Airline Has Arrived,’’ sent the message that AirTran could stand up against the major carriers, while offering affordable fares. Taglines included ‘‘We’re the David vs. Goliath.’’ The campaign seemed to work. Customers came back, and AirTran’s revenues steadily increased, rising from $439 million in 1998 to $733 million in 2002. In 2003 Cramer-Krasselt created a campaign to replace ‘‘Your Airline Has Arrived.’’ This new campaign, ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You,’’ promoted AirTran’s low business fares.

Although AirTran’s revenues were climbing and passengers were slowly rediscovering the carrier, the airline was still trying to convince consumers to think of AirTran first when they scheduled trips. The campaign was aimed particularly at business travelers, who were considered to make up one of the industry’s most lucrative sectors. Thus, the campaign was designed to appeal both to leisure travelers planning quick getaways and to frequent business fliers. But more than anything, the campaign was aimed at any consumer looking for a low airfare. ‘‘Now more than ever consumers are looking for hassle-free, affordable travel options,’’ said Tad Hutcheson, AirTran’s director of marketing.
He added that the new campaign showed how AirTran could give consumers what they wanted, including affordable ticket prices and flights to major destinations.

In 2003, according to Deutsche Bank, the international financial services provider, the top five U.S. airlines—American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, and United—reported combined losses estimated at almost $6.5 billion. As the big airlines were floundering, they also were thumbing their noses at the discount carriers. They should have been paying attention, however. The investment banking firm Lehman Brothers reported that by the end of 2002 discount airlines had captured 28 percent of the domestic market, up from 9 percent in 1991. In addition, discount airlines were affecting fares in markets that accounted for 56 percent of the larger airlines’ revenue. With the promise of reliable, inexpensive flights, even without frills, airlines like AirTran, Southwest, and JetBlue were making money and attracting passengers away from the big five.

The concept of no-frills, low-cost air travel had been introduced by Texas-based Southwest Airlines in 1971 when its first flight, between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, took off. Building on the innovative idea of providing passengers on-time flights at the lowest possible fares, the airline helped redefine air travel. Within three years Southwest had carried its millionth passenger, and by 2003 it had grown to become the number four carrier in the United States, with almost 2,800 daily departures that carried 65 million passengers to cities in 30 states. Besides helping to set the standard for future low-cost carriers, Southwest’s innovative thinking was reflected in its marketing. In 2000 the airline launched a television campaign designed to encourage people to book flights on its website. The spots used humor to show people how they could leave uncomfortable daily situations behind by booking a quick vacation getaway on In an attempt to reach its target audience—25- to 54-year-old men who made frequent business trips—the airline also signed a sponsorship agreement with the National Hockey League. In 2003 Southwest took another unique approach to marketing when it partnered with the Arts & Entertainment Television Network (A&E) for a new reality show titled Airline. The program, which in effect starred Southwest Airlines and which debuted in early 2004, provided a behind-the-scenes look at the airline industry. It followed both passengers traveling to various U.S. locations as well as the airline staff, from ticket agents to pilots, who helped them on their way.

While Southwest was promoting itself with a reality television show, Delta Air Lines, one of the big five carriers in the United States, was preparing to compete with the discount carriers. In February 2003, in the hopes of winning back passengers, Delta launched Song, the airline’s updated version of a discount carrier to replace its low-frills sibling, Delta Express. Described as an ‘‘airline within an airline,’’ Song provided video screens at each seat and planned to include video games, live television programming, and music in its 36 planes. Song also announced plans to charge lower fares than the competition. As part of its marketing strategy, the airline opened Song retail shops, modeled after the inside of a airplane cabin. The first store opened in 2003 in New York’s SoHo area, and a second store opened in 2004 in Boston’s Prudential Center. Merchandise included video games and other entertainment options available on Song flights. For people who could not seem to get enough airline food, a selection of the items included on the Song menu could be purchased in the shops. And for those travelers anxious to book their next trip on Song, the stores had computers at the ready for customers to buy tickets. Although the airline reportedly planned to launch a television marketing campaign promoting Song, the retail shops were meant to enable consumers to enjoy the full Song experience without traveling to an airport. It was not clear, however, that the retail project was successful in selling tickets for flights on the airline, and in October 2005, as part of its restructuring plans under bankruptcy protection, Delta announced that Song would be phased out.

Cramer-Krasselt designed ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You,’’ AirTran’s new 2003 advertising campaign, to send a clear message about the carrier’s low fares and the ways in which its services could help consumers avoid various travel difficulties. The $23 million campaign was launched in February 2003 with five television spots. Also included were radio, print, outdoor, and Internet advertising. The television spots were limited to the larger markets served by AirTran, including Atlanta, Baltimore, and Milwaukee. The print and outdoor portions of the campaign appeared in all of the airline’s markets.

Humor was the driving force in the ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You’’ campaign. Television spots targeting business travelers portrayed office situations with a twist. For example, the spot titled ‘‘Shipping’’ showed business people sent to a meeting in packing crates. The people climbed out of the crates with packing peanuts stuck in their hair before convening in a boardroom. One unfortunate employee missed the meeting, however, when his packing crate fell off the back of the delivery truck. A voice-over asked, ‘‘Is the cost of getting there getting in the way of business?’’ Another spot targeting business travelers, titled ‘‘Client Dinner,’’ showed two businessmen entertaining a new client. At the end of the meal the businessmen walked out without paying the restaurant check. The spot ended with the question ‘‘Business trips getting too expensive?’’

Among the TV spots aimed at leisure travelers was ‘‘Babysitters.’’ This commercial showed grandparents arriving at their daughter’s house for a visit. The parents quickly handed their small children to the grandparents before tossing luggage into a cab and driving off, with the grandfather running after the cab as he shouted, ‘‘Don’t leave us with the babies.’’ Another spot targeting leisure travelers, titled ‘‘Mouthwash,’’ showed a family whose members shared a bottle of mouthwash. After each person rinsed, he or she spit the mouthwash back into the bottle, before passing it on to the next person. The voiceover asked, ‘‘Does the cost of travel have you cutting back in other areas?’’

Print ads followed themes similar to the television spots. For example, one ad pictured a sleeping man in a business suit stretched out on a park bench, with his suitcase stashed underneath. The lights of a big city twinkled in the background. Another showed a business meeting taking place around a boardroom table that was made of plywood supported by stacks of plastic milk crates. The text in all of the print ads asked the question ‘‘Does the cost of flying have you cutting back in other areas?’’

According to Hutcheson of AirTran Airways, both the consumer and industry response to the ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You’’ campaign was overwhelmingly positive. In the months following the campaign’s launch in February 2003, the airline reported a steady increase in passenger traffic. By the end of 2003 the carrier’s passenger traffic had jumped nearly 30 percent, to about 607 million travelers, compared to 466 million over the same period in 2002. In March 2003 Boards Magazine named the campaign one of its top spots. The campaign also received a 2004 Gold EFFIE Award for, among other things, reaching consumers, especially business travelers, and increasing ticket sales, which allowed AirTran plant to fly with full passenger loads, well above the break-even point. In 2005, as further evidence of the campaign’s success, Cramer-Krasselt introduced additional advertising under the ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You’’ banner. Included were five new television spots, which followed the same humorous formats that had been used in the originals. Other supporting efforts included new radio, print, outdoor, and Internet advertising.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Aflac, Inc., was a major insurance company based in Columbus, Georgia. In 2000 its top product was its cancer-expense coverage, which the company had invented in 1958. Though profitable, Aflac suffered from poor brand recognition; only 12 percent of consumers remembered the company, in part because it had such an unusual name. In response, Aflac wanted to expand its business by improving consumer’s awareness of the brand. It also wanted to target 35- to 54-year-old consumers. In 1999 the company hired a new advertising agency, the Kaplan Thaler Group, to improve its name recognition. The New York–based agency was known for its ‘‘Big Bang’’ approach to advertising: the belief that campaigns succeeded most when they altered consumers’ views about the brand advertised. To accomplish this for Aflac, the agency created a new spokescharacter, the Aflac Duck. Voiced by comedian and actor Gilbert Gottfried, the Duck appeared in spots that featured consumers having trouble remembering the company’s name. The Duck attempted to remedy this by ‘‘quacking’’ the answer: ‘‘Aflac.’’ The lighthearted spots were broadcast on prime-time network TV and during broadcasts of sporting events such as Major League Baseball games. Aflac spent $35 million on the campaign. The Duck was a major success. According to USA Today ’s Ad Track poll, it was one of the most popular spots of 2000. Brand recognition shot up to more than 70 percent and later topped 90 percent. Sales improved 28 percent, a result in part of improved name recognition. The company’s accident/disability insurance took off, outselling the company’s cancer-expense plans for the first time. The Duck became a cultural icon and continued as the company’s advertising focal point through 2004. That year the Duck became one of the first characters to appear on the Advertising Walk of Fame in New York City.

The American Family Life Assurance Company (later called Aflac) was founded as an international holding company in 1955 by brothers John, Paul, and Bill Amos. In 1958 it became one of the first companies in the world to offer insurance against cancer. It expanded its offerings significantly in the 1980s, and by the late 1990s it sold a variety of policies, from dental care to short-term disability to hospital-confinement indemnity and life insurance. In 1990 the company adopted the acronym ‘‘AFLAC’’ as its official name. By 2000 Aflac was insuring more than 40 million people. The company excelled at providing policies that helped pay out-of-pocket expenses not covered by someone’s primary insurer. This was also known as ‘‘supplemental insurance.’’ Aflac was respected in the industry, and in January 2000 Fortune included it in its list of the 100 best companies to work for in the United States. Because of the Fortune 500 company’s solid core business and steady growth, in 1999 the National Association of Investors Corporation named Aflac one of its favorite stocks. Aflac was especially adept at reaching out to small businesses. It tailored certain plans specifically for this market, with a sales force of about 60,000 that helped reach small businesses face-to-face. It was also the largest provider of guaranteed-renewable insurance in the United States. The company thrived overseas as well, becoming the largest provider of individual insurance policies in Japan. Aflac’s primary business strategy revolved around expanding its product line and focusing on gaining clients through businesses.

Aflac was especially eager to connect with consumers in the 35- to 54-year-old age group and to boost sales of accident and disability insurance. While the company’s cancer-expense insurance had always been the backbone of its sales, there was not much room left for growth in that sector. In order for Aflac to grow, it needed to expand its other businesses. Because accident/liability insurance was a major part of the industry, Aflac felt that that was the area it most needed to expand. The company also wanted to sell more of its supplemental insurance. The company especially wanted to reach consumers with families. Aflac had a good reputation, but its difficult-to-remember name impeded its efforts to attract new customers. Insurance was a buyer’s market. Many companies offered similar coverage policies, and it was important to stand out. Aflac suffered from terrible brand recognition: only about 12 percent of consumers remembered the brand’s name. This limited the company’s new sales leads.

Aflac’s primary competition came from other accidentand health-insurance brands, such as Citizens Financial Corp., Conseco, Inc., and Amerisafe, Inc. All offered services comparable to Aflac’s. There were a number of companies competing in the sector, making Aflac’s low brand recognition a serious liability. Aflac issued 98 percent of its coverage on a payroll-deduction basis. This meant that, while the company’s sales force and its reputation were able to help it sell its products to costconscious corporations, it had a hard time drawing sales leads outside of the corporate sphere. Aflac believed that it needed to change its image with consumers to survive in a tough industry.

When the Kaplan Thaler Group created the Aflac Duck, it chose Gilbert Gottfried to provide the Duck’s voice. Gottfried was no stranger to voice-over work, having provided the voice of the parrot Iago in the classic 1992 Disney animated film Aladdin. A longtime stand-up comic, Gottfried first rose to prominence in 1975 when he appeared on the NBC variety show Saturday Night Live. He later acted in a string of diverse films, including Beverly Hills Cop 2, Problem Child, and Look Who’s Talking Too.
Never a leading man, Gottfried nonetheless drew a solid fan base with his offbeat humor and distinctive voice. As a stand-up comedian he was often known for his bawdy humor, which was perhaps most evident in his performance of an old vaudeville joke shown in the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats. But his nasal, highpitched voice also resonated in children’s animated films, in which he often voiced comic relief. His character Iago was one of the most popular Disney villains, and the character later popped up in other Disney projects, including the television show House of Mouse.

Aflac contracted the ad agency Kaplan Thaler Group (KTG), a division of Bcom3 based in New York City, to help the brand break through to consumers. This was the first major campaign conducted by KTG on Aflac’s behalf. The company earmarked $35 million for the campaign. KTG was run by cofounders Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. They had developed an approach to advertising that they called the ‘‘Big Bang.’’ A ‘‘Big Bang’’ campaign altered people’s perceptions of a brand or product. Aflac, which suffered from poor brand recognition, decided that this was a good approach for the company.
While trying to develop an idea for the Aflac campaign, some of the KTG personnel had trouble remembering the brand’s name themselves. While repeating the name in an effort to memorize it, the ad agency employees noticed that it sounded a little like a duck quacking. That prompted the creation of Aflac’s new ‘‘spokesman,’’ the Aflac Duck. The new ‘‘Duck’’ campaign began on December 21, 1999. Gilbert Gottfried, a nasal-voiced comedian who was known for his work in films such as Beverly Hills Cop 2, performed the Duck’s voice. One key spot featured two men in a steam room talking about insurance. One man was praising his insurance company, which helped him pay his out-of-pocket expenses following a serious accident. Every time he forgot the company’s name, the Aflac Duck popped up to remind him by quacking, ‘‘Aflac.’’ As the conversation continued, the Duck grew increasingly impatient with the man, eventually shouting at him. This was the second spot in the campaign, following the Duck’s debut in ‘‘Park Bench,’’ which featured a similar conversation located on a park bench. Both commercials revolved around people’s difficulty in remembering the company’s name.
More spots followed. One showed a young couple discussing having their first child. They realized that they needed supplemental insurance and were trying to think of the name of a good insurer. Once again, the Duck appeared to remind them: ‘‘Aflac.’’ All of the initial spots played on the theme of consumers’ difficulty in remembering the insurer’s name. The commercials turned this weakness into a strength by using it as the source of much of the campaign’s humor. The Duck himself was a humorous character, especially in the way that he grew increasingly frustrated by consumers’ inability to either recall Aflac’s name or listen to his prompts. The spots were mostly aired as a part of what the ad industry called a ‘‘prime-time roadblock,’’ a strategy involving running the same commercial on many different stations at about the same time. Aflac ensured a large audience by airing spots during every major network evening news program. The spots were also aired on CNN during Larry King Live and Headline News and on the financial network CNBC throughout the day. In addition, the spots ran during major sporting events, especially college football, professional baseball, and major tennis tournaments such as Wimbledon. As the campaign took off, the company’s advertising spread into prime-time programming across the three major networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS. In July 2001 the Duck made his premiere in Japan, where it was just as successful.

The ‘‘Duck’’ campaign was an unqualified success. USA Today reported that, based on a poll conducted by the newspaper and market-research firm Harris Interactive, it was one of the most popular campaigns of 2000. The company’s name recognition among consumers shot up from 12 percent immediately before the campaign to a resounding 71 percent after the Duck’s introduction. As the campaign continued, Aflac’s brand recognition soared above 90 percent. The ‘‘Duck’’ spots were a key reason. According to the advertising research company Ipsos ASI, the initial ‘‘Duck’’ campaign scored more than double the industry average in brand recall. Aflac also saw sales improve. In the first two weeks of 2000 the company had more sales leads than in all of 1998 and 1999 combined. It also saw annualized premium sales jump 28.5 percent in the second quarter of 2000, giving the company a record $168 million in sales that quarter. For the first time accident/disability insurance replaced cancer-expense insurance as the company’s number-one product. Sales for the year were up a healthy 28 percent, and recruiting was up 22 percent.
The Duck’s popularity prompted the company to offer stuffed ‘‘talking’’ Aflac Ducks, which quacked when squeezed, for sale on its website. Proceeds were donated to the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The company’s relationship with the institution dated to 1995, when it funded construction of the cancer unit. Aflac promoted the initiative on CNBC’s Power Lunch. Company CEO Dan Amos appeared on the program in July with the Duck. The Duck made return appearances on the program throughout the month, promoting the charity effort. By August the company had raised $75,000.
Aflac’s reputation thrived. In 2001 it was named the fifth most admired company in the health and life insurance industry by Fortune. The magazine sighted Aflac’s ‘‘bold approach to advertising’’ as one reason for the honor. The Aflac Duck became a cultural icon, and the company began to associate itself with the Duck mascot, placing it on the company’s website. In 2004 the Duck was named one of the country’s favorite advertising figures, besting such characters as Ronald McDonald to be one of the inaugural members of the Advertising Walk of Fame in New York City.
In subsequent years a number of celebrities appeared in ‘‘Duck’’ spots, including comedian Chevy Chase, retired baseball star Yogi Berra, and singer Wayne Newton. The Duck was also featured on the TV shows The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Saturday Night Live. The Duck would remain the focus of Aflac’s advertising for several years. In an effort to explain the company’s services better, however, the company began to de-emphasize the Duck in some of its advertising in 2004.


In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, several advertising industry associations decided to join together to develop a public service advertising campaign to inspire and rally the American people. They turned to the Advertising Council, an organization that for more than a half-century had coordinated and distributed public service announcements of all types.
Several advertising agencies also donated their services to develop the television and radio spots and print ads that constituted the resulting ‘‘Campaign for Freedom.’’ The first phase was launched to coincide with the 2002 Fourth of July celebrations; the second phase was timed for the two-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. There was no budget for the effort, which relied on free airtime and print space from media companies. The commercials and ads explored the theme of freedom in a number of ways: positing an America in which people could be arrested for asking about the wrong book at a public library; portraying the real-life stories of people who fled repressive countries to come to America; and celebrating America’s religious and cultural inclusiveness.
Following the first two phases of the ‘‘Campaign for Freedom,’’ the purpose shifted from inspiration to action, as the audience was urged to participate in civic activities such as voting and to volunteer time to worthwhile causes. One of the ads in the ‘‘Campaign for Freedom’’ won a One Show award, but while it drew praise from many quarters, the company was also criticized by others, who viewed the advertising as little more than propaganda.

No different than anyone else, members of the advertising industry were stunned by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. And like many citizens, they gave thought to what gave strength to the country and made it unique among nations. Employees of Texas ad agency GSD&M were in Maryland in a client meeting when the attacks unfolded, and because air flights were suspended for several days, they drove home to Texas. With ample time for reflection, they decided to create a public service announcement (PSA) that celebrated America’s diversity, a message with resonance given the suspicions that were laid upon people of Middle Eastern descent or mistaken for it. GSD&M broadcast producers quickly lined up pro bono help from directors, producers, and editors, and the agency’s president contacted the Ad Council about being a partner in the endeavor. The organization agreed to participate and for the first time in its history became the sole signatory of a PSA. The result was the ‘‘I Am an American’’ spot, featuring a wide range of men and women, young and old, of different races, declaring, ‘‘I am an American.’’
The ‘‘I Am an American’’ spot aired within 10 days of the attacks. Also during this time three advertising industry associations—the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and the American Advertising Federation (AAF)—met and began to plan a full-fledged advertising campaign to help Americans reflect on the bedrock of democracy: freedom. It was also agreed that the Ad Council was the proper vehicle to lead what would become the ‘‘Campaign for Freedom.’’ Unlike traditional Ad Council campaigns that were developed by a single agency, this effort would be the joint work, free of charge, of four agencies: Omnicom Group’s Chicago office of DDB, the Los Angeles office of TBWA\Chiat\Day, DeVito/Verdi of New York, and the New York office of Lowe & Partners Worldwide, a subsidiary of Interpublic Group of Companies. Heading the effort would be Philip B. Dusenberry, who had recently retired as chairman of BBDO North America. Instead of relying on the backing of a sponsoring organization, the Ad Council, in another break from tradition, sought funding to cover production and distribution costs from a variety of sources, including ad agencies, agency employees, trade groups, advertisers, and media companies. After several months of development, the ‘‘Campaign for Freedom’’ was ready to launch in time for the Fourth of July holiday.

While the ‘‘I Am an American’’ spot aired at a time when the emotional reaction to the September 11 events was fresh and raw, by the time the ‘‘Campaign for Freedom’’ broke nine months later, the mood in the country was somewhat different. ‘‘Right after 9/11 there was this upsurge of patriotism in America,’’ Dusenberry commented in a radio interview on New York radio station WNYC in July 2002. ‘‘But over time that sense has waned a little bit because other things come into play and people let this blessing we have, which is called freedom, flip to the back of their mind.’’ In essence every strata of America was the campaign’s target audience. For those people who had grown somewhat complacent in the months since the terrorist attacks, the PSAs were a wake-up call. For people more vigilant, they offered reinforcement.

The ‘‘Campaign for Freedom’’ lacked traditional competition. People were not being asked to choose between tyranny and freedom, to buy democracy over totalitarianism. They were not even asked to take any particular action, other than to ruminate about the nature and importance of freedom. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor that ushered in America’s involvement in World War II, Ad Council ads pursued patriotic themes but with a more tangible purpose: to sell war bonds to finance the war to achieve the greater end of preserving freedom and democracy. As Dusenberry explained to WNYC, ‘‘Most advertising is designed to sell a product, a service, a brand. In this particular case, this advertising is asking people to feel something.’’

The Advertising Council, originally called the War Advertising Council, was launched in the midst of World War II in 1942. Not only did the organization develop ‘‘Buy War Bonds’’ advertisements, but it also coined the famous ‘‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’’ slogan and introduced the United States to Rosie the Riveter in an effort to recruit women into the workforce to support the war effort. Following the war the Ad Council devoted itself to peacetime endeavors, such as the work it did for the National Safety Council.

Peggy Conlon, president and chief executive officer of the Ad Council, told Jane L. Levere of the New York Times in July 2002, ‘‘According to research, Americans are looking for messages that will inform, involve and inspire them during the war on terrorism.’’ The theme that resonated was freedom. Hence it was the concept of freedom that the alliance of advertising associations decided to focus on in the aftermath of September 11. ‘‘Freedom is our strength,’’ Conlon explained to Levere. ‘‘However, freedom is also at risk. The ‘Campaign for Freedom’ recognizes that it is every American’s responsibility to protect the foundation of our nation, and this is the heart of the strategy. The campaign wasn’t designed to define what freedom is, but to stimulate a dialogue, to make people think about it.’’
To emphasize the theme of freedom, the campaign was timed to coincide with the Fourth of July. The first phase of the campaign included eight television commercials and one print ad, which the Ad Council distributed to 10,000 print and broadcast outlets. All the PSAs were run in advertising time and space donated by the media. A wide swath of network and cable TV channels—including ABC, CBS, Fox, Bravo, Discovery, Lifetime, and VH1—immediately began to carry the ads. DeVito/Verdi produced four of the initial eight television spots and supplied the campaign’s tag line:
‘‘Freedom. Appreciate it. Cherish it. Protect it.’’ Three of the DeVito/Verdi spots asked what life would be like in America if freedoms that many people took for granted were lost: freedom to read whatever material they like, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. In the spot called ‘‘Library,’’ for example, a man was detained because he requested a pair of banned books. The fourth DeVito/Verdi spot was perhaps the most notable of the first wave of commercials. Called ‘‘Main Street USA,’’ it showed a stretch of row houses in Bayonne, New Jersey, as a voice-over said, ‘‘On September 11th, terrorists tried to change America forever.’’ After a fade to black the same street was shown again, this time adorned with a multitude of American flags, sometimes two or three to a house. ‘‘Well, they succeeded,’’ noted the voice-over. A white title card then revealed the campaign’s tagline. The three spots produced by Lowe dealt with the concepts of freedom of choice and freedom of opportunity. The spot titled ‘‘Change’’ showed students in a multicultural classroom studying the civil-rights movement. Another, called ‘‘Choice,’’ reminded Americans about the abundance of choices they enjoy at the supermarket. The lone DDB spot, ‘‘Arrest,’’ showed the police pull over a young man, drag him out of his car, and then after finding newspapers in the back seat, handcuff and arrest him. The copy read, ‘‘Imagine America without freedom.’’ The print ad in the first phase was developed by TBWA\Chiat\Day. The text accompanying a picture of a tattered America flag declared, ‘‘Read this ad. Or, don’t. An exercise in freedom. By deciding to continue reading, you’ve just demonstrated a key American freedom—choice. And should you choose to turn the page, take a nap or go dye your hair blue, that’s cool too.’’ The second phase of the ‘‘Campaign for Freedom’’ was launched in September 2003, more than a year after the initial wave of PSAs, this time coinciding with the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks. ‘‘Main Street USA’’ was brought back, and three new television and radio spots and a pair of print ads were distributed as well. Produced by Ogilvy & Mather, the three television spots were presented as documentary-style interviews. They featured three immigrants and their stories of fleeing oppression to come to America. In the spot called ‘‘Tom,’’ Tom Tor told how he escaped the ‘‘killing fields’’ of Cambodia. With images of the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, and excerpts from the Constitution in the background, Tor explained, ‘‘If I stayed in Cambodia, I would have been dead . . .Why did I come here? Freedom.’’ The subjects of the other spots were Eugenia Dallas, who fled the Soviet Union during the time of Stalin, and Yuri Gevorigian, who escaped torture in Armenia. The spots were cut in 30-and 60-second versions, and the audio was used to fashion radio spots. The two print ads in the second phase of the ‘‘Campaign for Freedom’’ were created by TBWA\Chiat\Day had also focused on the immigrant experience, reminding the audience that virtually everyone in America was the offspring of immigrants, while celebrating the country’s diversity. The copy of one ad featured the headline ‘‘A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Are Walking Down the Street. (There’s no punch line.)’’ The text, accompanying a picture of three religious men on a street corner, then posed the question ‘‘What do you get when you mix Christianity, Judaism and Islam? In many parts of the world it’s a recipe for disaster. Yet in America, it’s a formula that’s endured for over 200 years.’’

The ‘‘Campaign for Freedom’’ became a long-term effort for the Ad Council and its alliance of advertising agencies. Subsequent phases were added to move beyond the initial inspirational messages and to call on people to express freedom in action through participation in everyday civic activities, such as voting. The campaign was also aided by a dedicated website, http://www.explorefreedomusa. org, where all the advertising could be found and visitors could learn more about the Constitution, American history, and homeland security, as well as access links for registering to vote or volunteering their time. It was difficult, if not impossible, to gauge the effectiveness of the ‘‘Campaign for Freedom,’’ given that its goal was ethereal. But it did succeed in raising money from such media companies as Knight-Ridder and the Hearst Corp. as well as major corporations like the Coca-Cola Company and Home Depot. It also received an abundance of free media time and space, worth tens of millions of dollars. Levere reported that ‘‘some advertising industry experts praised the campaign’s intent and execution.’’ TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles won an award for the print ad ‘‘A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Are Walking Down the Street,’’ taking home a Bronze Pencil in the Consumer Magazine category of the 2004 One Show, sponsored by New York City-based One Club, a nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing and promoting excellence in advertising.
The ‘‘Campaign for Freedom’’ was not without its share of critics, however. Levere interviewed New York University media studies professor Mark Crispin Miller, who deemed the ads unfocused and exploitative. ‘‘The campaign is inappropriate because these ads are not thought-provoking but emotionally manipulative. They are bits of rousing propaganda,’’ he commented. ‘‘What we need now in a time of terror is more information, more truth, more clarity of mind. The Ad Council is merely giving us a kind of feel-good blather for the nation’s couch potatoes.’’ Minneapolis freelance writer and activist Jeff Nygaard offered an even more cynical view of the Ad Council’s efforts in Nygaard Notes: ‘‘They are selling, first of all, the idea that ads are good things, sources of information and inspiration—Ads are our friends. This message is brought to you, after all, by the ‘Ad Council.’’’ The Ad Council’s Conlon answered the critics by telling Levere, ‘‘There are always critics and skeptics, no matter how well-intentioned anyone’s efforts are. We’re doing everything within our power to protect these people’s right to say whatever they want to say about this campaign.’’


After more than a decade of dismal performance worldwide and a 1995 company relaunch by a group of international investors, the Germany-based athletic-footwear-and-apparel brand adidas (the official company name became adidas-Salomon AG after a 1997 merger with French sports-equipment maker Salomon) set its sights on rebuilding its share of the U.S. market. It dramatically raised its marketing profile in the United States and sought partnerships and licensing agreements. One such agreement, with the New York Yankees, caused controversy among other members of the Major League Baseball association. The partnership also resulted in a modestly scaled yet successful advertising campaign focusing on the nature of that baseball team’s fans. ‘‘Yankee Fans’’ was developed by the San Francisco ad agency Leagas Delaney. It began during the 1997 baseball season and also ran during the following season, leveraging an estimated $1 million annual budget. The campaign was headlined by black-and-white TV and cinema spots as well as print and outdoor support, all of which revolved around five out-of-shape Yankee fans who painted letters on their bare chests so that collectively they spelled ‘‘YANKS.’’ The TV spots ran primarily in the New York area, but they also received national exposure during postseason broadcasts of Yankees games. The campaign was a hit with Yankee fans and New Yorkers. The five principal characters from the TV spots became local celebrities, and their fictional exploits were well received by advertising-industry critics. ‘‘Yankee Fans’’ won a Silver Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival and a silver and two bronze Clios, among other awards. Even though it was not designed to drive national adidas sales, the campaign corresponded with a period of sustained profit and market-share increases.

As adidas kicked off its ‘‘Impossible Is Nothing’’ advertising campaign, the company did not forget some of New York City’s youngest athletes and perhaps its future champions. The company announced plans to partner with the city’s Police Athletic League (PAL) to support boxing and basketball programs for boys and girls. Offering words of encouragement to kids and lending support for the proposed partnership, Laila Ali, who was featured in some of the ‘‘Impossible Is Nothing’’ ads with her father, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, said during an interview (at the program’s unveiling at the PAL center in Harlem), ‘‘A lot of people told me I shouldn’t go into boxing. If I had listened to them, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It’s very important for you to follow your dreams. You really can’t let anyone decide your future for you.’’

Strong in the 1970s, adidas practically disappeared in the United States in the 1980s and early ‘90s. The German sports-shoe company, once the category leader with a 70 percent U.S. market share, slid completely out of the top four spots, down to a 2 percent share in 1993. Name recognition was low, and it was not viewed as a highquality product. Fortune magazine said that by 1993 the company was losing $100 million a year. During those same years Nike had become the dominant athletic-shoe manufacturer on the strength of its powerful, sustained marketing effort. At adidas’s low point an international group of investors led by Frenchman Robert Louis-Dreyfus bought the company and revamped it. It went public in November 1995.
Louis-Dreyfus fired the German senior management staff, closed down high-cost factories, and doubled spending on marketing (the marketing budget was set at 6 percent of the sales revenue in 1993). As a result, by 1997 sales had doubled, and Louis-Dreyfus kept the marketing budget at 12.5 percent of revenue. Ad agency Leagas Delaney, which previously had been creating a single commercial per year for adidas, was by 1997 making 40 spots and spending close to $20 million in the United States on advertising.
The resurgence took adidas past Fila to number three in the U.S. athletic-footwear-and-apparel market. Much of the rebound was built on a huge increase in adidas’s apparel business. To further enhance this growth, adidas bought French sports-equipment maker Salomon in September 1997. The move balanced the company’s geographic reach and provided better insulation against swings in fashion and sales downturns in one region or country. ‘‘The move gives [a]didas a leg up on Nike in one of its final frontiers for growth,’’ said Jeff Jensen of Advertising Age.
Another key marketing decision helped lead to the ‘‘Yankee Fans’’ campaign. After Nike signed a sponsorship agreement with the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys, adidas looked for similar opportunities. The company won the Yankee sponsorship by acting quickly;
Nike and Reebok received calls from the Yankees about sponsorship, but adidas won by listening and moving fast, according to the Yankees’ vice president for business affairs, Derek Schiller. The baseball team also accepted partial payment of the sponsorship agreement in the purchase of adidas stock. ‘‘The Yankees and Adidas personify tradition and performance. Everyone knows who the Yankees are. Around the world. It’s a great relationship for both parties,’’ explained Sam Rothman, account manager at Leagas Delaney. The sponsorship agreement, however, immediately generated controversy. Major League Baseball (MLB) maintained that the deal violated the league’s licensing policy. The Yankees and adidas responded by suing all of the other MLB teams as well as some leaders of the organization, claiming that these parties had disrupted a legitimate business partnership.

In the late 1990s the major competitors in the athleticshoe market received the bulk of their sales from young males, many of whom bought multiple (often five to six) pairs of athletic shoes each year. Adidas’s overall core market was the 14- to 18-year-old elite athlete, but the ‘‘Yankee Fans’’ campaign strictly targeted Yankee baseball fans. For the Yankee sponsorship to be of the most value to adidas, the company needed to build a strong association with the club in the minds of its fans. Leagas Delaney said that it was not an intensely researched campaign with focus groups, statistics, or scientific analysis. Instead the agency built the spots informally. Yankee fans were known to be passionate about their team. And the Yankee franchise had the proudest tradition in baseball, a long history, and more glory years than any other major U.S. sports team.
The agency chose the five actors who played the Yankee fans based on their abilities to project a New York attitude—an attitude that indicated, ‘‘Let’s get it done with full gusto.’’ Campaign success hinged on accurately portraying the male New York Yankee fan yet doing so in a humorous, exaggerated way.

Since the 1980s Nike had dominated the athletic-footwear-and-apparel category. With its ubiquitous swoosh logo, Nike owned 47 percent of the 1997 U.S. athleticfootwear market. Nike’s hold on the category was so strong it redefined advertising for the entire category, emphasizing brash confidence, endorsers, the soft sell, and cinematic savvy. In 1997 Nike overhauled its longstanding, world-famous ‘‘Just Do It’’ campaign as a new campaign titled ‘‘I Can.’’
Even with such a dominant player, because of its growth the market continued to present a strong attraction to other companies. Athletic shoes enjoyed solid demand in the United States, and a steady economy and rapid rollouts of new styles that kept capturing new sales spurred their popularity. Apparel other than footwear was another way competitors increased their sales and profits. For several years Reebok, the number two competitor with 21 percent of the U.S. athletic-footwear market, ran ads similar to Nike’s (for example, the ‘‘Reebok Lets U.B.U.’’ campaign). Reebok tried to counter Nike’s staple of star athletes, such as basketball’s Michael Jordan, with its own superstars (Shaquille O’Neal). Reebok later dropped O’Neal and tried to exploit the anti-Nike sentiment.

Leagas Delaney account manager Sam Rothman paraphrased the sentiments of art director Peter Nicholson and copywriter Scott Wild, the creative minds behind the ‘‘Yankee Fans’’ campaign. ‘‘We shot the ‘Yankee Fans’ ads for 1998 at Yankee Stadium. They were playing the Braves. We kept the Yankee Fans around and had them do personal appearances. We had them sitting in the stands watching the game. When they were shown on the JumboTron (the in-stadium video screen) the crowd went absolutely nuts. We showed the commercials. Then we took the guys and moved them to another part of the stadium. I’ve never seen a crowd go so crazy. People were jumping up and down, yelling, screaming, running over to them, taking their pictures, and asking for autographs. These guys, like Mr. ‘S’ signs his autograph, ‘Mr. S.’ That is what we wanted—acceptance from the fans. That was the best proof of how we accomplished our goal.’’

Nike’s dominance was so impressive that other product categories, such as soft drinks and telephone companies, also adopted its ad style. Eventually market research found young consumers tiring of athlete-as-God and win-at-all-costs approaches. Ads with highly paid, ‘‘perfect-body’’ endorsers and so-called ‘‘full-of-itself’’ attitude began to suffer. After years of seeing the Nike swoosh logo everywhere, some people in focus groups began referring to it as a ‘‘swooshtika.’’ ‘‘The underlying cocky, prescriptive, hipper-than-thou tone of the ads started to get on people’s nerves, as did the company’s tendency to deify athletes,’’ wrote Warren Berger in Advertising Age.
In this environment the ‘‘Yankee Fans’’ campaign gave people a low-key approach. Whereas Nike portrayed the athlete as hero and hard worker, and Reebok fought back with its own sports-celebrity endorsers, adidas focused on the fan. (This focus, however, was at least partly a result of adidas’s and the Yankees’ ongoing lawsuit against the rest of MLB: adidas was not allowed to use Yankees players in the campaign’s spots until the lawsuit was settled.) The competition showed the athlete’s muscle, but the adidas spots showed the fans’ potbellies and lack of muscle tone. The spots came across as real and down to earth. Another twist was having one of the world’s greatest sports franchises represented not by its stable of stars but by the people who paid to see those stars play.
Among the campaign’s four initial black-and-white TV/cinema spots, two in particular resonated with New Yorkers and Yankee fans as well as with ad-industry critics. ‘‘Abandoned Mr. S’’ opened with a dance beat and the image of a shirtless and bald man waiting nervously on a busy street corner. Painted on his chest was an ‘‘S.’’ Viewers pondered this man’s purpose and felt his discomfort until a taxicab pulled up. His relief was palpable: inside were four other men, each shirtless and with a letter painted on his not-so-muscular chest. Together the men spelled out ‘‘YANKS.’’ In the spot ‘‘Spelling Trouble’’ the five guys were again in a cab and were again shirtless, each with a letter painted on his chest. The driver sized them up and said, ‘‘Ansky? What the hell is Ansky?’’ The guys, realizing that they were not sitting in the correct order, started moving around in the backseat, creating a tangle of limbs and torsos before settling into position, spelling out ‘‘YANKS.’’ Mr. ‘‘N’’ ended the spot by yelling ‘‘Yanks!’’ at the top of his lungs. Each commercial closed with the tagline ‘‘Only in New York.’’ When in May 1998 the adidas/Yankees lawsuit against the other MLB teams was settled, the campaign began featuring Yankees players in addition to the ‘‘ANSKY guys,’’ as the Yankee fans in the spots had become known. For instance, the Yankees’ pitching coach was shown advising pitcher David Cone to rest his arm. The ANSKY guys accordingly began doing everything in their power to help him rest his arm: they answered his cell phone for him, fed him, and even helped him relieve himself in the men’s room. The campaign’s annual budget was estimated to be $1 million. The spots initially ran on the large video screen at Yankee Stadium as well as on TV during local sports programming and in movie theaters in the New York area. During postseason games involving the Yankees the spots were aired nationally. Print and outdoor ads using photographs of the ANSKY guys were also employed.
Some criticized the advertisements for not showing or talking about the product, but adidas wanted all emphasis on the audience. ‘‘It’s not like [a]didas is a new brand that has burst out and needs to create a new identity,’’ said Courtney Buechert, managing director of Leagas Delaney. ‘‘Adidas’s identity was and is and has been for 70 years about love for a sport and a mission to create products to help athletes perform better.’’

The ‘‘Yankee Fans’’ campaign ran during an upswing for the company. Financially the year 1997 was the best ever for adidas, especially in the United States, where its growth rates outpaced Nike’s and Reebok’s. Worldwide sales were $3.72 billion in 1997, up 23 percent over 1996. North American sales were up 66 percent, increasing the company’s market share in the world’s most important sporting-goods market to more than 6 percent. In 1998 adidas also made huge strides in its attempt to catch Reebok and Nike; that year it doubled its share of the U.S. market to 12.6 percent.
The campaign’s target market seemed to love the spots. The five guys became celebrities, attracting crowds, autograph hounds (each ANSKY guy signed with his individual letter), and applause whenever they made a public appearance. The campaign also won many industry awards, including a Silver Lion at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France, one silver and two bronze Clio Awards, and a 1998 American Advertising Federation Award. It was also a finalist at the One Show and earned a ‘‘Best Spot of 1997’’ recognition from Adweek. The campaign’s profile was heightened considerably by the Yankees’ championship season of 1998, during the course of which the spots ran on national television. The ANSKY guys were featured prominently in the victory parade following the Yankees’ World Series victory.
Leagas Delaney’s success with the ‘‘Yankee Fans’’ campaign landed it the New York Yankees’ own advertising duties in 1999. The agency was also entrusted with the job of crafting adidas’s first umbrella branding initiative in the United States since 1993. That campaign, the high-profile ‘‘Long Live Sport,’’ was released in 1999. The partnership between adidas and the New York Yankees was renewed in 2006, guaranteeing that adidas would remain the ‘‘Official Athletic Apparel and Footwear Company of the New York Yankees’’ at least through 2013.


Over the years adidas-Salomon AG has maintained an international reputation as a premier maker of sporting goods and athletic footwear. It has hired some of the sporting world’s top athletes as spokespersons for its products, and the company has also owned a sponsorship deal with the New York Yankees. Despite its high profile in the industry, however, the company remained the alsoran athletic footwear company in the United States, behind Nike, Reebok, and New Balance. In addition, in 2003 the company reported that its total sales in the United States had dropped 16 percent in the first nine months of that year. Further confounding adidas, which sponsored the 2004 Olympic Summer Games, was the loss of its sponsorship rights to the 2008 Olympics to its competitor Nike.
To gain an edge over the competition and to reenergize its business in the United States, in 2004 adidas-Salomon AG introduced a $50 million brand-marketing campaign—the largest ever undertaken by the company—that included television, print, and Internet ads. Themed ‘‘Impossible Is Nothing,’’ the yearlong global campaign was created for adidas by 180/TBWA, a partnership between 180, an agency based in Amsterdam, and the San Francisco agency TBWA/Chiat/Day. It kicked off with television spots featuring digitally altered footage of boxing legend Muhammad Ali jogging with some of the top athletes of the 1990s and 2000s, such as soccer star David Beckham. Athletes featured in subsequent ads included Ali’s daughter Laila, also a boxer, NBA greats Tracy McGrady and Tim Duncan, and tennis champion Justine Henin-Hardenne. The campaign clearly resonated with consumers and earned praise and official recognition from the advertising industry. After it began, the company reported that U.S. sales were up 11 percent compared with the same period the previous year.

Adidas was founded in the late 1920s in Germany by brothers Adi and Rudi Dassler. According to the company, Adi Dassler ‘‘had passion for every sport and a passion to make equipment to help every athlete perform better.’’ In 1928 adidas began equipping Olympic athletes, and it continued to do so over the years. Runner Jesse Owens wore the company’s track shoes during his Olympic competition in 1936, and it was reported that at the 1972 Olympics some 80 percent of the goldmedal-winning athletes wore adidas shoes. Adi Dassler’s innovations included inventing screw-in cleats for soccer shoes and introducing a lightweight sprint spike. When the brothers ended their partnership in the late 1940s, Adi kept the business going and continued to develop sporting equipment intended to enhance the performance of athletes at all levels.
By the 1990s, however, the company was struggling. This was due in part to mismanagement by Adi’s son Horst, who, after Adi died, had taken control of adidas in 1985. Horst’s death in 1987 led to the sale of the company in 1989 to French businessman Bernard Tapie, who filed for bankruptcy soon after purchasing adidas. By 1992 the company’s U.S. market share had taken a nosedive, dropping to 1.9 percent from a high of 70 percent 20 years earlier.
In 1992 another French businessman, Robert Louis-Dreyfus, took the helm at adidas, and by the late 1990s the company was on an upward swing, increasing its business by 74 percent in the United States. But in 2003 adidas, with a 10 percent market share, still lagged behind Nike in sales, and its North American business was again on a downward slide, dropping 16 percent in the first nine months of that year. Herbert Hainer, who had succeeded Louis-Dreyfus as adidas-Salomon president and CEO in 2001, told Advertising Age that the drop in U.S. sales in 2003 was not a one-year problem but rather had been ongoing for several years. Hainer blamed the problem on the fact that adidas had been ‘‘slow to adapt to a shift in demand from many of our customers.’’
In an effort to revitalize its U.S. business, the company refocused its marketing to attract younger consumers and shifted its global marketing functions to the company’s American headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Adidas also implemented a new, more cohesive approach to its international advertising by hiring American agency TBWA/Chiat/Day as its ‘‘global agency network.’’ For the development of the upcoming campaign, TBWA was partnered with 180, an Amsterdam-based shop that had been creating successful ads for adidas since 1998.

The ‘‘Impossible Is Nothing’’ campaign was driven by adidas’s efforts to shift its marketing focus to reach its target audience, 12- to 24-year-old consumers involved in sports. Based on statistics showing that men between the ages of 18 and 34 spent more time online than watching television, adidas also shifted some of its marketing to the Internet. Tara Moss, Internet business developer for adidas America, explained during an interview with Advertising Age, ‘‘We were trying to reach that teen audience that is dedicated to sports. Their apparel and footwear is really necessary to them in their daily lives.’’
Whether the new campaign would actually appeal to its target audience was questioned by some. In an interview with the Oregonian, Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, said that adidas needed to make changes in its marketing to be competitive with such companies as Nike and Reebok, who were using highprofile athletes, including NBA stars LeBron James and Yao Ming, respectively, to promote their products. ‘‘The challenge here is whether young teenagers, who are really the hot market for shoes and apparel, resonate with [Muhammad] Ali,’’ he said. ‘‘Many of these kids may never have seen him compete in their lifetime.’’

With a 37 percent market share in the United States, Nike had a firm hold on its position as the number one sporting goods company. In 2004 it introduced one of its most extensive advertising pushes, a campaign that asked the question ‘‘What If?’’ Like the adidas ads that featured star athletes, Nike’s commercials used a roster of top athletic performers. But rather than showing the athletes doing what they did best, the Nike ads depicted athletes participating in sports other than their specialty. For instance, tennis star Serena Williams played beach volleyball, and Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong sparred in a boxing ring. As Nancy Monsarrat, Nike’s director of U.S. advertising, explained to the Washington Times, ‘‘What if Lance Armstrong was given a pair of boxing gloves instead of a bike as a child? Our belief is that a passionate athlete’s drive to win would translate into success in any sport.’’
Reebok International Ltd., the number two maker of athletic shoes in the United States, had employed numerous memorable marketing campaigns, from ‘‘Because Life Is Not a Spectator Sport’’ in the mid-1980s to ‘‘Life Is Short, Play Hard’’ in 1991. In 2003 it introduced its ‘‘Outperform’’ campaign. According to the company, this campaign allowed Reebok ‘‘to educate consumers about our heritage in performance. The first commercial went all the way back to 1895 and the beginnings of the J.W. Foster Company, working our way up to the present day.’’ Reebok increased its international marketing in 2004, starting a major ad campaign in China, where the market for sneakers was $500 million and Reebok’s sales accounted for just $40 million of that. The company’s international presence also was expanded in Europe, with French soccer star Nicolas Anelka serving as spokesman. In Latin America and the United States the brand partnered with pop singer Shakira.

The adidas ‘‘Impossible Is Nothing’’ campaign, created by 180/TBWA, was designed first to reach American consumers and to improve the company’s market share in the United States. Adidas stressed that the campaign was aimed at a global market and that ads would eventually include athletic stars from a variety of sports and regions. ‘‘Impossible Is Nothing’’ was launched in February 2004 with television, print, and Internet advertising. ‘‘Wallscapes’’—huge ads on the sides of buildings—were installed in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, and Portland. The first television spot featured American boxing icon Muhammad Ali as a young man setting off on one of his legendary long runs; the footage was digitally altered to show him running alongside members of a new generation of athletes, including soccer great David Beckham and NBA star Tracy McGrady, all dressed in adidas merchandise. Meanwhile, Ali’s daughter Hannah narrated, ‘‘Some people listen to themselves, rather than listen to what others say . . . they remind us that once you set out on a path, even though critics may doubt you, it’s okay to believe there is no ‘can’t,’ ‘won’t,’ or ‘impossible.’ They remind us it’s okay to believe impossible is nothing.’’ Another TV ad employed digital effects to depict a young Muhammad Ali sparring with his daughter Laila. In a voice-over Laila dismissed the idea that women should not box, saying, ‘‘Impossible isn’t a fact; it’s an opinion.’’
In addition to print ads and TV spots, the campaign, described by the company as a ‘‘fully integrated communication campaign,’’ also included ads and promotions on the adidas website as part of an effort to reach consumers, especially teens, all over the world. For a limited time the ‘‘Laila’’ TV spot was made available on the Yahoo!, MSN, and ESPN home pages. The online aspect of the campaign also featured 20 elite athletes, each telling his or her personal ‘‘Impossible Is Nothing’’ story. Consumers who logged onto the site were encouraged to share their own stories of overcoming the impossible to succeed. The best stories were awarded prizes. Additional television commercials showed past and present Olympic stars interacting with each other. One ad had sprinter Kim Collins on the track encountering the 1936 gold-medal-winner JesseOwens. Another depicted gymnast Nastia Liukin retracing the moves of the legendary Nadia Comaneci, who in 1976 became the first gymnast to complete a perfect-10 Olympic performance. The spot starringHaile Gebrselassie, known as one of the greatest runners of all time, was digitally altered to feature him running a 10,000-meter race in the Long Beach Memorial Stadium against nine competitors: all himself.

As the ‘‘Impossible Is Nothing’’ campaign advanced, it became evident that it was resonating with consumers, and it earned accolades within the marketing arena. The campaign received a Silver EFFIE Award and won a Gold Lion Award at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France, and adidas was named the 2004 Marketer of the Year by Footwear News. Ad critics praised the campaign as well. Speaking specifically of the Boxing legend Muhammad Ali ® and daughter, Laila at the unveiling of a billboard featuring their image as part of the launch of Adidas’ campaign ‘‘Impossible is Nothing.’’ ª JEFF CHRISTENSEN/REUTERS/CORBIS.
commercials created for the U.S. market, Barbara Lippert of Adweek said that the campaign had been ‘‘incredibly successful.’’ She continued, ‘‘Those ads really capture the viewer’s imagination. They are beautifully executed and organic, effectively leveraging the brand’s image. Adidas has made a lot of noise. To come that far, that quickly, is just incredible.’’
The Internet component of the campaign was also successful in reaching the target audience. According to Moss, there was a 125 percent increase in the use of the search term ‘‘adidas’’ on the Yahoo! home page the day the ad featuring Ali and Laila appeared online. The highest number of search requests was from young men aged 13 to 17. Despite the campaign’s success, the NPD Group, an international market-research organization, listed adidas as the number four athletic-footwear brand in the United States—behind Nike, Reebok, and New Balance—the same position it had held in 2003. But based on dollar sales adidas made advances in 2004. According to the company, sales in 2004 were 11 percent higher than in 2003, pushing adidas closer to its proposed goal of doubling its 10 percent U.S. market share and closing the gap between itself and the top company, Nike.


German sporting-goods company adidas-Salomon AG returned from near death in the mid-1990s with a new focus and global strategy. No longer content to allow competitors, especially the seemingly invincible Nike, to dominate the sporting-goods category, adidas launched a full-scale offensive designed to increase awareness of the brand, enhance its image, and elevate sales. The company moved production facilities to Asia to cut manufacturing costs, formed high-visibility alliances with sports organizations and athletes (including a sponsorship of the New York Yankees baseball team beginning in 1997), purchased the French company Salomon SA (a manufacturer of golf, ski, and bike equipment) in 1997, and pumped additional funds into its modest marketing budget. Hoping to increase the sales of its running accessories in the United States, adidas America, Inc., the U.S. headquarters for adidas, released a provocative campaign titled ‘‘Runners. Yeah, We’re Different.’’ The San Francisco office of advertising agency Leagas Delaney released the branding campaign with an estimated $1 million. To prove that the company understood the sport of running, the ‘‘Runners. Yeah, We’re Different’’ campaign, which began in 1998, targeted the serious runner, a relatively small and anonymous audience. With full-page and two-page ads in specialty magazines such as Runner’s World and Running Times and with some executions in the general-interest Sports Illustrated, the series of print ads celebrated the rather unusual but relatively common habits of dedicated runners, such as smearing Vaseline on the inner thighs and under the arms to prevent chafing. Sean Ehringer, Leagas Delaney’s creative director, explained, ‘‘[adidas] wanted to do a brand focus campaign that gave them some running credentials, and the way we decided to do that was to let runners know that we understand them . . . Runners have their own kind of weird way of doing things, so there’s a lot of things to talk about there.’’ The campaign ended in 2000.
According to the ad-industry publication Campaign, ‘‘Runners. Yeah, We’re Different’’ was the third most awarded series of print ads in the world for 2000. It helped adidas’s brand awareness in the United States reach record highs and was eventually expanded globally.

Adolf Dassler, known as Adi, began making athletic shoes in 1920 in Germany. His shoes made their first appearance in the Olympics in 1928, and in 1936 Jesse Owens won four Olympic gold medals running in Dassler’s track shoes. It was not until 1948 that Dassler founded the adidas company. The company was immensely successful, flourishing through the 1960s and 1970s. At the 1972 Olympic Games, noted Advertising Age, more than 80 percent of the gold-medal winners sported adidas shoes, and all of the Olympic officials were outfitted in uniforms designed by adidas. During that decade adidas gear could be found on most professional soccer players and on about 75 percent of professional basketball players. By 1978, the year of Dassler’s death, the adidas brand enjoyed a global recognition rate of about 95 percent.
Although it took years for adidas to build a reputation, the company’s commanding grip of the athleticgoods market deteriorated quickly. Not only did adidas miss some important athletic trends, such as the jogging craze of the late 1970s, but it also suffered from management problems. Dassler’s son Horst took control of the company in 1985, but he died just two years later, and adidas was sold in 1989 to French businessman Bernard Tapie, who soon declared bankruptcy during the course of a political scandal. By the time creditors approached French businessman Robert Louis-Dreyfus to take over the failing company in 1992, adidas’s share of the U.S. running-shoe market had fallen from a leading 70 percent share in the early 1970s to a dismal 1.9 percent, and the company was losing more than $100 million annually. Louis-Dreyfus knew nothing about the athletic-shoe business, but he had succeeded in turning around other failing companies, notably the London advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. After taking the helm at adidas in 1993, Louis-Dreyfus downsized the staff, moved production to Asia, and nearly doubled the marketing budget, from 6 percent of sales to 11 percent, to acknowledge the importance of advertising and image. Not only did adidas manage to elude death, but it also quickly and steadily began to increase sales and boost its reputation. Between 1992 and 1996 the company’s share of the $8 billion U.S. market increased from 2 percent to a small but more respectable 5 percent, and its revenues grew from $1.7 billion to $2.8 billion. In 1994 U.S. sales grew 62 percent, and a year later the company went public, the same year the rather unfit Louis-Dreyfus symbolically demonstrated his commitment to adidas by running in and completing the Boston Marathon. By the late 1990s the company’s U.S. sales were growing at an annual rate of nearly 50 percent, and adidas had no intention of slowing its pace. Steve Wynne, president of adidas America, told Fortune in 1997, ‘‘We have huge market share to gain in the United States . . . We’re very focused on what we need to do right now. In 1998, you’re going to see some very big improvements in our sales.’’

Because adidas was a multisport company, it traditionally geared its goods and its advertising toward athletes. The company developed equipment for numerous sports, including wrestling, weight lifting, basketball, tennis, running, and soccer. Adidas’s target audience suddenly expanded in the 1990s, however, as renewed interest in the adidas brand, particularly in apparel, grew. Adidas was no longer associated solely with sports enthusiasts but with fashion-conscious youth, and the company embraced the market composed of 20- to 25-year-olds.
Despite its popularity with the youth market, adidas continued its marketing efforts in niche segments, directing advertising toward markets with specific athletic needs. For the ‘‘Runners. Yeah, We’re Different’’ campaign, adidas narrowed its audience to pinpoint the serious runner, a group frequently overlooked by the sports media despite the popularity of running. The lack of hype surrounding running could perhaps be attributed to the individuality and solitude of the sport. As Leagas Delaney’s Ehringer remarked, ‘‘Most people who run run silently on their own for their own reasons, and nobody even knows they exist.’’ Ehringer also emphasized the importance of running and said, ‘‘It is very much a unique and individual sport, but it’s a part of almost every athlete’s life at some point.’’ To lure runners, an extremely dedicated lot, adidas adopted an honest and direct approach. Ryan Erickson, a marketing executive at adidas’s rival Reebok International Ltd., explained the importance of credibility when advertising to runners. Erickson said in Footwear News, ‘‘Runners sniff out fake stuff in a heartbeat.’’

Adidas’s comeback was boosted by the resurgent popularity in the early 1990s of adidas gear, adorned with the trademark three-stripes design and once again considered stylish after decades of being passe´. Celebrities such as Madonna, Cindy Crawford, and the band Luscious Jackson all appeared sporting adidas apparel.

In the highly competitive U.S. athletic-footwear category, adidas America faced considerable competition from Nike and Reebok, the top two athletic-shoe manufacturers in the nation. Nike, which had dominated the field since the 1980s, when it wrested market share away from adidas during the running craze, boasted a 47 percent share of the U.S. athletic-footwear market in 1997, up from 45.2 percent in 1996, according to the industry newsletter Sporting Goods Intelligence. Reebok held a market share of 15.2 percent in 1997 and 16.5 percent in 1996. Although it was trailing Nike and Reebok considerably, adidas was becoming increasingly successful and profitable. Adidas’s share of the athletic-footwear market had grown from 5.4 percent in 1996 to 6.1 percent a year later, and in 1997 adidas snagged the number three position away from Fila Sport SpA, the U.S. arm of Fila Holding SpA. Also that year, adidas’s U.S. sales enjoyed a 66 percent increase over 1996. Helping adidas was the rejuvenation of the runningshoe category in the late 1990s. Running-shoe sales in the United States increased by 11 percent in 1997, and even smaller niche players, such as New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc., and Saucony, Inc., were doing well. By 1996 adidas had managed to move up to the number two spot in the running category, and that year its running business increased an impressive 74 percent in the United States. Although adidas had a long way to go before it could hope to come within hitting range of Nike, the company still set its sights on taking market share away from Nike and Reebok. Adidas did not have the aggressive marketing budget of its chief rivals—adidas estimated that Nike’s media budget was 10 times greater than its own—but adidas believed that its quality products and careful marketing could generate enthusiasm among consumers. Fortunately for adidas, Nike hit a rough patch in the late 1990s that helped pave the way for adidas’s success. Although Nike still dominated the athletic-footwear category, its hold grew weaker. Its U.S. athleticfootwear sales dropped 18 percent in the third quarter that ended February 28, 1998. David Aaker, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, explained in Adweek, ‘‘The Nike brand has grown universal and ubiquitous to the point where it is losing its core appeal as a maverick.’’ In reaction, Nike expanded its famous ‘‘Just Do It’’ tagline and added the gentler ‘‘I Can’’ slogan in 1998, and its swoosh logo was toned down, no longer boldly emblazoned on every Nike product. Adidas, meanwhile, planned to take advantage of Nike’s slump to build its brand image. Ehringer noted, ‘‘Our job here in the U.S. specifically has been to replace the notion, ‘I’m buying this for what it isn’t’ to ‘I’m buying this for what it is.’ We’ve been trying to rebuild the brand in a sense and put its credentials out there and make sure people understand that it’s a multisport brand . . . so when fashions come and go, in the end, [adidas is] still a legitimate sports brand for sports.’’

In planning the ‘‘Runners. Yeah, We’re Different’’ branding campaign, adidas and Leagas Delaney felt that it was important to speak directly to the runner. Ehringer told Joan Voight of Adweek, ‘‘I am so tired of this huge trend where ads keep telling you that you are not adequate in some way. ‘Be that’ or ‘Do this.’ . . . What is wrong with celebrating the fun-ness of the brand? . . . Better to have a conversation with people, not a conversation at people.’’ In keeping with this belief, and to make the most of adidas’s marketing dollars, Leagas Delaney created a series of colorful print ads that celebrated running with a direct and unique approach only runners would likely appreciate and understand. Ehringer explained, ‘‘The unusual thing about [the campaign] was we were really very literal about it. I think it was pretty courageous to do ads that were so honest about really talking to runners that a lot of people wouldn’t even know what you were talking about.’’ To add an extra element of interest and to further suggest adidas’s bond with runners, many of the ads starred adidas-sponsored runners, talented athletes with little face-recognition value.
One of the early ads was a two-page color spread featuring a male runner—an adidas-sponsored marathon runner—applying bandages to his nipples at a road race. His shirt, with pinned-on race number, was casually tucked into the waistband of his shorts as he completed the bandaging task. Skyscrapers and other runners appeared in the background. A heavyset woman in nonrunning attire, perhaps a spectator, observed the runner’s ritual with a slightly bewildered look, emphasizing how odd the act must appear to nonrunners. The only text in the ad was the adidas logo in one corner and the tagline in another. A second ad showed a walking and running path in a city. A male runner blew his nose in typical runner fashion—with a finger pressed against one nostril to allow the forceful emanation of mucus from the other—as a disgusted nonrunning female looked on. The ‘‘Runners. Yeah, We’re Different’’ slogan appeared in the middle of the ad, and the text at the bottom read, ‘‘You’ve never experienced a support shoe like this. The incredibly smooth ride of the Equipment Tyranny is something different too.’’ The $1 million campaign appeared in running-specific publications such as Runner’s World and Running Times and in the popular magazine Sports Illustrated. Another ad showed two male runners racing a cable car up a steep San Francisco hill as cable car riders looked on. The Vaseline ad featured a male and a female runner getting ready for a race by applying Vaseline to various body parts that might otherwise get rubbed raw while running. The male runner was Peter Julian, who was a four-time all-American while at the University of Portland. Similar ads continued until the campaign ended in 2000.

The ‘‘Runners. Yeah, We’re Different’’ campaign generated much interest and discussion among runners. The campaign ended in 2000, and some of the final ads were bolder than those from 1998. One 1999 ad, for example, featured a full view of the backside of a naked male runner (two-time 10,000-meter Olympian and four-time 10,000-meter U.S. champion Todd Williams) who stood by the open trunk of his car to change out of his muddy running clothes. Another ad showed a female runner squatting by a tree next to a trail, her shorts pulled down. Although these ads were quite daring, the acts featured were not out of the ordinary for runners. Adidas’s director of marketing communications, Karyn Thale, told Adweek that the company was pleased with the advertising efforts and said, ‘‘It is time to tell our story in the U.S., and the Leagas ads are doing a great job of [expressing] our brand’s young, fresh and hardworking image here.’’ Adidas continued to thrive and in 1998 held onto its number three ranking in the athletic-footwear industry with a 6 percent share, according to market research firm NPD Group, Inc. In comparison, Nike’s retail dollar share was 34 percent and Reebok’s 13 percent. Although overall spending on athletic shoes dropped 6 percent from the previous year, running shoes continued to lead the athletic-footwear category, acquiring 17.1 percent of retail sales. Adidas’s U.S. net sales jumped 68 percent to $1.59 billion, and the running category grew more than 50 percent from 1997. Adidas spokesperson John Fread told the Business Journal of Portland, ‘‘For us, [1998] was an outstanding year, another record.’’ Adidas was definitely back in the game, and it planned to stay there, pursuing its commitment to sports and athletes around the globe.
In the campaign’s final year adidas reached its highest brand awareness in company history. The adidas sales increase during the campaign shocked sporting-goods analysts because running shoes were previously considered a slow-growth category. The print ads collected more awards than print ads released by any other competitor in 2000, and adidas eventually expanded the campaign internationally.