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BRAND X: Damaged Goods

Brands: boo.com, Nike; agencies: BMP/DDB, Wieden & Kennedy

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Remember when Bill Clinton blasted "heroin chic"? Al Gore, here's your chance to act presidential: Slam "carnage chic." No, not Quake and Doom (duh) but the latest campaigns from Nike and online sports retailer boo.com, which both take pains -- literally -- to glorify self-destructiveness. Nike's commercial shows eerie video portraits of athletes' injuries -- a surfer's horribly scarred knee, a wrestler's mangled ear -- over the strains of "You Are So Beautiful." Boo.com's print ad shows an inline skater collapsed in pain on a city street, clutching a bloody knee. Never mind the old-school ABC Sports notion of "The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat." Forget winning and losing. The point now is to have some sort of wildly extreme risk-taking experience -- pushing not to your limits but beyond them, and at any cost. It's injury fetishism for the thoroughly unafflicted suburban set, a sort of antidote to that whole wussy Men's Health aesthetic (perfect teeth, perfect abs). And right now, it's the sexiest way to turn on young guys. If MTV can reel in viewers with its Sports and Music Festival 3D (which features shows like Death Valley Moto-X and Senseless Acts of Video), surely Nike and boo.com can use images of carnage to increase revenues -- if only their customers live long enough to pay their credit-card bills.


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