I just finished The Art of Simplicity by John Maeda, who boils simplicity down to being about “subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”
Nike “relaunched” its sponsorship of Tiger Woods today with an ad that subtracts any mention of its footwear or clothing, color video, music, or sight of Tiger hitting one of his extraordinary golf shots. It instead uses a single zoom shot of Tiger looking incredibly sad with background audio of his dead father talking about responsibility.
So there’s no question the ad is simple. But is it effective? For those who haven’t seen it yet, Tiger’s dad (who likely wasn’t talking about his son’s sexual indiscretions when he was recorded) is heard saying, “Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything?”
I’d like to know Tiger’s answer to the question. Based on his decision to approve using his father’s voice in this way I’d say no. Did Nike achieve its goals? Everyone’s talking about the ad, so the answer there is probably yes. And it’s consistent with some of its previous ads focused on the personal branding of their spokespersons. Remember Charles Barkley and his “I am not a role model” ad? That was Nike too.
Tiger said during a press conference on Monday that he was just looking forward to getting back and playing golf. This ad undermines that goal and leaves many thinking it’s all about the press coverage for Tiger and Nike.
The ad is simple. The motives are not. I doubt many of Nike’s target audience will change their buying habits as a result of this ad. But the consistency of the brand message and subtly reminding people they didn’t drop Tiger may be enough. Not that it matters all that much, but I don’t see this ad as helping Tiger’s efforts to restore his brand, unless you want to view it as further penance.
Getting back to John Maeda and his Laws of Simplicity, I don’t believe Tiger and Nike satisfied the second half of his core law. The obvious was subtracted, but very little meaning was added. Perhaps a simple shot of Tiger juggling a golf ball at the end of a club, apologizing to fans and saying he’s back and committed to re-earning the trust of his family and fans would have been more appropriate…and more consistent with the Just Do It brand.