Much has been made of the Tiger Woods’ scandal, his subsequent departure from and now return to golf, and the various cultural fallouts of the whole overplayed rigmarole. But nothing in the whole scandal has really interested me as much as this strangely mesmerizing ad from Nike, which aired a few times this week on ESPN and the Golf Channel and has since gone viral online (an advertiser’s dream scenario). Here’s the ad:
The 30-second spot features a silent, stoic, ashamed-looking Woods, accompanied by a decontextualized audio clip of his father Earl Woods from beyond the grave. Everything about the ad–the black and white, the slow zoom on Tiger’s face, the what-looks-like-a-golf-course setting, the strange audio clip, the minimalism and even the calculated light flashes at the end–works perfectly to create a strange half minute of arresting ambiguity that leaves people wondering: what was that??
Where does that audio clip come from and what was its original context? It matters not. In a world of mashups and soundbites and outmoded notions of metanarratives… meaning can be repurposed to whatever end its entrepreneurial stewards see fit. If life gives you lemons, find some cognac and champagne and get on GarageBand to remix a French 75. We live in a world of have-it-your-way manifest digital destiny.
Because nothing is owned or fixed or stable and “meaning” is so questionable anyway, why not take something from who knows where/when and infuse your own new use into it? Just do it.
Is your brand tarnished because your all-American golden boy spokesperson took your license-to-be-impulsive slogan a little too seriously? Fear not. All you have to do to mitigate the PR disaster is tackle it head-on. Create an ad that admits the mistake, asks for forgiveness, accepts the public humiliation, and universalizes the problem (everyone can relate to disappointed father/guilty son/lesson learned) all in one 30-second fell swoop. All without even needing to say anything too explicitly.
Context? Meaning? Implications? Lessons? All of that is, um, left for the viewer to infer. Nike need not concern itself with that. Their mandate is written indelibly into the iconic symbol they espouse–that don’t-look-back, move on up, take what’s yours and only apologize as a means to success American swoosh.
Just do it.