These shoes will make you hurt and ruin your life, and that's how runners like it
By Tim Nudd
These shoes will ruin your life.
I'm not a runner, but I imagine runners will appreciate the new batch of ads from K-Swiss and ad agency Mile 9. They're wry and hardboiled, unpatronizing to an almost absurd degree. They treat their audience almost with disdain, and in so doing become just another obstacle that serious runners, in their upside-down world view, will welcome—just as regular people tend to prefer (though they would deny it) a more obsequious tone in advertising.
"They will drag you out the door and on to the lazy morning streets," says the sardonic male voiceover in one of the four spots. "They will make you hammer yourself until you think your legs and lungs are going to burst. They have no sympathy for fatigue, or whatever your inner voice is clamoring on about. Blades by K-Swiss. These shoes do not care about your issues."
The flat, dismissive aspect of the spots is amusing and melds attitude with (broadly speaking) the product pitch. It's also designed to flatter runners, who like to see themselves as ruthlessly self-sufficient—in no need of luxuries like friendliness or promises of comfort. (Some might not be flattered—they might see through the ploy and find the ads manipulative and cynical—but I'm guessing most will enjoy them for at least demonstrating an understanding of the runner's mind-set.)
The spots are quietly rugged in their visual style as well. Keeping the camera absolutely motionless in shot after shot accentuates the movement of the runners, but in a way that's not at all glamorous. It looks like work—painful, everyday work. The runners' faces are largely cut from the frame, too, emphasizing that it's not about you—it's about the shoes. (This approach extends to the product shots, with the runners filmed from the knees down as they take an impatient break before sprinting off again.)
The new spots are an interesting counterpoint to the brand's Kenny Powers campaign(crafted by 72andsunny), which got great play because of its bawdy comedy but whose performance claims were harder to take seriously because of the outlandish hyperbole. The ads also stand in opposition to more feel-good running spots like Nike's "I Would Run to You," in which the girl jogs across the country to reunite with her man. (Runners, by and large, seem to despise that spot—though to be fair, Nike has dramatized the more anti-social aspects of running as well.)
Running isn't feel-good. It's feel-bad. That's the whole point. With these ads—breaking online today and on TV later this year—K-Swiss shows that it gets that. And that's a big step forward.