25 years of Just Do it

I was sixteen years old when the Nike ‘Just Do It’ campaign first broke.And I remember the hairs standing up on the back of my neck.

That was twenty five years ago this month.

From the classic Ian Wright, Nike soccer ad to John Lennon singing ‘We all shine on’. Seeing these adverts absolutely drove me to want to work in advertising.

In fact one of our sports teachers at school hung a poster of an American Football player, walking off the pitch after winning the Super Bowl with the line in the bottom, Right corner reading “Just Did It’. I suspect sports teachers the world over did that.

I explored the campaign, which wasn’t easy to do pre-internet, by getting international Ad Award books from libraries, subscribing to Archive magazine and constantly looking at the world of commercials.

Across the globe the campaign was tailored to the sports and the passions of the residents of the relative locations. Each advert told its own story, in its own way, with its own style. And each, to me was a work of art.

It’s a good few years now since my advertising days. I’ll never look back, having entered the exciting and opportune new world of digital, but many of the things that motivated me back then, still do today.

The notion of making a real connection with people. Motivating them to make changes, or respond positively. Leaving a lasting impression on them. Being remembered for all the right reasons. These principals are just as relevant in the digital age.

I’ve always had issues with the word advertising, I love the discipline, but the word itself always seemed a bit devoid of integrity.

Which is why I’m a huge advocate of the language of ‘Content Strategy’. I know it can be a bit of a buzz word, but to me it really means a lot.

Content Strategy

It means a brand can express its values, communicate with its customers and develop new relationships, in a way that isn’t always about making a direct sale. Although by doing those things well, you can incline your customer base to take the action that is most beneficial to them and you.

And as I was reminiscing on this today it dawned on me that perhaps the ‘Just Do It’ campaign was the first great example of a content strategy. It allowed itself to be more disparate, targeted, multi-channel, and more viral (although we had to use our mouths for word-of-mouth back then) than other campaigns. And also through its diversity, brought the users into the content, and in many cases allowed them the freedom to express themselves through the campaign mechanic. Today we’d call that ‘User generated content’.

We’re growing our Content Strategy and delivery offering at the moment. Not just because clients are demanding it, but because it’s a passion of ours (certainly of mine, being an old Madman at heart).

And today I asked Owen Booth, our new Head of Content Strategy who joins us this month, how he would describe the notion of a ‘Content Stategy’. And I loved his response…

“Don, It’s a film on the BBC iPlayer, it’s a twitter timeline, it’s a picture drawn by a child, it’s an instagram photo of someone’s dinner, it’s an Amazon product page, it’s a news article, it’s a job ad, it’s a share price feed, it’s a hotel review, it’s a Facebook conversation, it’s an infographic, it’s a set of instructions, it’s a story, it’s a podcast, it’s a train timetable, it’s a map, it’s a music track, it’s a YouTube video, it’s an image of a lolcat, it’s a legal disclaimer, it’s a 'buy now' button, it’s a piece of health advice, it’s a 404 page, it’s a link, it’s a slideshow, it’s a game, it’s a calculator, it’s a blog post, it’s a ringtone for God’s sake. It gets you noticed, it makes people remember you, it makes people trust you, it helps you hire staff, it sells (and up-sells) your products, it stops people ringing your helpline, it helps you retain your customers, it gets you better media coverage, it gets you shared on Facebook, it gets you found on Google, and it can stop you getting sued... It can make you money and it can save you money. And it brings you and your customers closer. And what business wouldn’t want that”

To me, the ‘Just Do It’ campaign will always be great benchmark for a brilliant Content Strategy.

Mr Weiden, Mr Kennedy, Mr Nike, I salute you and thank you in equal measure. Happy anniversary.