Worked on this new Kevin Durant Nike ad. Directed by David Gordon Green!
That’s what a “kibitz” is, according to Google image search. Here’s an excerpt from what it means, on GQ.com, when it’s David Roth and I gettin’ deep about the NBA Playoffs:
Shoals: You know how they say “all politics are local?” Well, all Bulls ads are local.
Roth: The thing with Rose, if I can put on my Brand Manager Cap (it has earflaps!) for a moment, is that the Chicago connection works for him. LeBron is from no-place at this point. Spiritually, he has apparently always been from a gated community near Miami. I think you’re right that the thing that works about the Rose commercial, and maybe doesn’t work for you about Rose, is that he seems to mean it—it feels like he cares because I guess he’s repping his stuff. All the best sneaker commercials have that. There was a Melo one in Baltimore I remember really well that way, with a creepy cameo by a nodding Jim Boeheim.
Shoals: “His stuff”. That sounds like you are saying he’s earnest about his balls.
Next week, the Finals!
I’ve been planning for a minute to vivisect the NBA Playoffs advertising playlist. My initial reaction: None of these speak to me, and I am the league’s target demographic. I guess being broke boots me out, though. That’s the only possible explanation, since this advertising is corny as fuck. The non-stop ads for metal detecting as a hobby and a way of life (learning to draw, however, is NOT a possible career) are especially incongruous. Forget about race, or (sub)cultural niche. Are age 24-35 men really looking to take up the banner hobby of the retired, the far-flung, and the Dale Gribbles of this world? Even more poignantly: When I think metal detectors and the NBA, I flash right to racial tensions and fear of young black men and weapons. Or, as in the photo above, little girls being searched in mildly suggestive ways. Thankfully, the playoffs advertisers, whose name escapes me, are most interested in digging up ancient Celtic gold or Civil War relics.
Then I noticed that Barkley’s incessant mentions of CrossFit actually made me sit up and ask, sometimes to no one in particular, “what’s CrossFit”? Commercials, save me for the sneaker and Old Spice ones that qualify as pop art, are inherently silly in the information age. We know the products, or at least have a more ingrained perception of the brand than could be changed in twenty seconds. Advertising itself, unless it goes for self-aware or weird (maybe not the most popular choice for companies in these shaky, risk-averse times), is for chumps. What is the NBA demographic? Black, white, rich, poor, it’s folks who can’t watch ads with a straight face. Any attempt to pull the wool over our eyes only pushes the product, and its new image, further and further away from us. At least the local ads we used to, and sometimes still do, get over League Pass had regional obtuseness going for them.
Basketball, as evidenced by its over-developed relationship with blogging, YouTube, and streaming game, appeals to people who like to find shit out for themselves. Not be handed a bill of goods. It’s not skepticism, and a good website certainly goes a long way. But handing NBA fans a pitch just won’t cut it. Why does Wieden+Kennedy continue to run this? It doesn’t try and sell anything, or manipulate image. They provide enhanced content, a missing link between the player brands that develop almost organically, and the product associated with them. In those Ray Lewis ads, we learn nothing about deodorant. We do, however, get a play on the Lewis we though we knew, plus a dash of entertainment. Cachet accomplished, and just maybe, the Old Spice brand is stronger for it. But there was no serious, linear attempt to impart to values of X onto Y in a way that couldn’t possibly alter our perception of a familiar product.
That’s why, for my money, the best advertising for these playoffs has been Charles Barkley’s non-stop shout-outs to CrossFit, whatever that is. Every time he mentions it, in could-give-a-fuck-less, self-deprecating manner, I ask my wife “what’s CrossFit”? She’s smarter than I am, so she doesn’t answer. But I’m part of that NBA demographic. I want to buy, and believe, but I want to get there myself. That’s what Google is for, or the associations I bring a good W+K ads. Brand becomes collaborative, participatory. You complete the puzzle. It’s the difference between completing a puzzle with friends, with beer and shit-talking in tow, and someone giving you that same image as a framed poster for Christmas. Actually, that last line really bummed me out. On some level, I suppose metal-detecting ads do, too. Please, put us both out of our miser. Let the future in. Shit, I’ve got the laptop open throughout most of these games. Shouldn’t all advertisers get wise to that dynamic?
Oh, and over at the GQ.com blog, the heavenly David Roth stops by for some kibitzin’ about the playoffs. Look for him more regularly from here on out. For Good Men Project, I wrote a moving tribute to my brothers and sisters in NBA Twitter blastin’, even if that medium is pretty much useless at this point.