Nike: Unlimited You

There is a reason that most admen/women want to work for Wieden + Kennedy. Like the Harvard of the Adworld, it is the rejection email that you would pin on your cork board before returning to a brief for a dull local client with little or no budget. For me, I dreamed of working there because of the Nike work they did.


Even pre-NRC, I was fan of the brand, collecting too many sneakers and swoosh emblazoned tanks to count; however, Wieden were able to capture why I loved them, bottling adrenaline into an edit via a consistent empowering message that made you want to go for the gold – whatever that gold was.

The duality in the above’s copy, narrated by the this-is-why-he’s-sexy Oscar Isaac, couldn’t be more on point when it comes to my brain’s dialogue while training. You yoyo between thinking, “A marathon? Who, me?” to Move, I’m running here, don’t kill my vibe.” The Unlimited You campaign stays true to Nike’s timeless Just do it slogan. It’s about breaking out of the cage you put yourself in, the box that you were assigned to fit into, getting out from under that ceiling that keeps you from rising up to the stars. It’s not about erasing your own limits and lightly brushing away the rubber ashes. It’s about obliterating those limits like they were never there. Every. Single. Time.

The Official Unlimited Manifesto
Everyone has limits right?
A point where you just say
That’s it. Enough. Finito. The End.
But here’s the thing
Limits are only suggestions
And “the end” is just something they put on movies.
Life isn’t about finding your limits
It’s about realizing you have none.
So get up. Get out.
Try something utterly ridiculous.
Practice ’til you’re reported missing.
Challenge the street court king.
Run the length of a river.
Then swim it back.
The only person who can tell you your limits is you
And even then you don’t have to listen.
Just do it.


The campaign also showcases the world’s biggest athletes telling stories about their beginnings and the dedication that goes into the sport they’ve adopted as their calling. There are more shorts like the one above featuring Serena Williams, Mo Farah, Alex MorganAshton Eaton, Allyson Felix, Simone Biles, and others. They’re like confessionals that make these badasses look human.

But it’s not just for the pros. It has spread within the NRC group here too. Our members have shared their own stories about why they joined and what taking up running with the group has done for them. Take a look:

It’s rare to see a brand’s projected image shine through to the people who aren’t sitting in on the conference call when the campaign is being born. Clearly, this idea matches what Nike is selling and doing for its customers since they’re willing to share their own experience & growth via a brand-sponsored club in their city.


Photo Credit: Special Magazine

Our own Chirine Njeim will be competing in the women’s marathon at this Sunday’s Olympic games, being the first woman to represent Lebanon in the marathon distance. Be it in Rio or on the streets of Bey, athletes are discovering their own unlimited source of power, they’re putting it to the test, and they’re just doing it.


6 Lessons Learned as a Creative in Advertising

Courtesy of Stokpic

Courtesy of Stokpic

I spent ~3 years as an art director at the Leo Burnett Beirut office. Now that I’ve left my first place of employment and I’m planning the next steps, I thought I’d share the lessons learned from being part of a global network that conducts business based on the ideology that creativity can transform human behavior. 

It’s all about the packaging.
And I don’t just mean the wrapping of the product, although that plays a role as well. “Packaging” refers to the way a service or product is presented. The words used, the tone of voice, the branding – all these elements make a difference when you’re trying to sell an idea which is exactly what advertising does. It’s the profession of selling ideas. Positioning a product so that it is attractive to the right demographic isn’t just about making a mockery of hipsters because that’s what the youngins find cool these days. It’s about coming up with the formula that makes this product mirror what your consumer thinks matches their lifestyle.

Details are your thing.
“Just a little bit more” could be the most used phrase for any hovering creative. Whether it’s saturation levels, headline placement, icon alignment, or the quintessential size of the logo, the details are your forte. The tiny things that no one else notices- including your client and most non-creatives who see the finished work- are the things you will obsess over but the reason that no one notices them is because they’re done well. As Joe Sparano said, “great design is transparent.” In advertising, your work is not a painting. It is an aesthetic craft but it has a function and the minor details will affect your visual articulation of an idea. Your eye will scrutinize what is necessary and what is just clutter. Or a typo, God frobid.

You shatter illusions automatically.
It becomes a superpower that you develop. By working behind the scenes, your brain becomes hardwired at being more critical of diction used in news reports, angles journalists take, and what shots the cameras leave out. Not only do you question what other brands are trying to tell you and sell you, you also start questioning authority and information. Working in media and communication gives you an awareness of the world around you and an ingrained skepticism toward dulcet storytelling. It’s similar to when you work in theatre and know how much truthfully went into a play production, what went wrong, and what costumes were just cast members’ grandmas clothes from the 70s. Working in advertising grants you a built-in bullshit filter.

Ideas are meant to be shared, killed, and born again.
As a creative, you can be very protective over your ideas and getting recognized for them. I think it comes from university days when you needed to stand out amongst your peers. There was a fear that someone would steal the shiny nugget that was supposed to prove that you were sharp and valuable. You were even scared of uploading your portfolio online because copycats and thieves could reproduce your work as their own. When you work in an agency, you find out that the only way your ideas improve is if they are shared. You cannot be attached to your ideas as if they are your unborn children. Keeping them to yourself serves no purpose, their growth is stunted, and you may not realize that they suck. They need to be exposed to light. Your colleagues can build on what you serve up, adding flavor and spice to an undercooked dish or kicking it up a notch.

Not everyone is just like you.
Dealing with various consumer markets opens your eyes. Your way is not the only way and your comprehension of situations is not the norm. It’s magnified when dealing with international markets but it’s not restricted to cultures abroad; even within your own country, you are living in a bubble that doesn’t expose you to segments of the population that lead different lives, follow different trends, and have different priorities. Understanding their fundamental needs becomes paramount to understanding how to communicate with them. As a creative, your work has to convey a message but that message needs to be decoded by the right audience. Just because you get it doesn’t mean those you’re talking to will.

You are more than your Adobe software.
Or you need to be. If you’re a creative in advertising who happens to only know how to use the Adobe Creative Suite (or whatever softwares used in your specific domain) then you are replaceable. When your only added value is knowing how to operate a program, you are as good as the next evanescent intern. You need to be more than a machine. Everyone’s greatest fear in this industry is becoming obsolete and being a liaison between feedback and the computer is the road that will get you there. You have to give in more than amended layouts; you have to feed the spark of curiosity, to research innovations, and to acquire new skills. It’s a fast-paced industry and being a creative within it is even more demanding in the age of the knowledge economy because you have no excuse for not taking advantage of all the tools in front of you.

And the day you become complacent, stop pushing back, and just deliver what the client is asking for is the day you need to ask for a new challenge or leave. It boils down to your development as a creative in the field but also as an asset to your company. The only thing worse than a disposable creative is one who is okay with being so.

Goodvertising at 2014 Cannes Lions

Last July, I wrote about Coca Cola’s “goodvertising” efforts. Goodvertising refers to when brands do good stuff that have an impact on people through their creative ideas/campaigns. This category of inspirational life-changing work is the kind that most people in the business aspire to do at some point in their professional life – not to mention, the reason a lot of young folk pursue a career in advertising. It was definitely a reason I joined the industry of communication: I want to be part of an initiative that improves a person’s life at the most basic level with an innovative idea that is human to the core.

Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is an annual festival that acknowledges and awards great creative work. It’s a big deal to win at Cannes because your work is up against the best content produced all over the world. Winning a Cannes Lion is like getting a black belt in advertising. In the past few years, Cannes winners tend to be campaigns or ideas that had 3 things:

a) an unanswered problem
b) useful technology that answered this problem
c) integrated approach based on one human insight

More and more winning campaigns are becoming product-based. Not as in the product that is being sold but as in the advertisers are designing products or solutions to world problems. Technology is a device or facilitator but not the most important factor. The idea is still king. It is increasingly difficult to bring an idea to life that is not condescending yet relevant to the brand’s purpose. It is even more challenging to keep your idea simple: no extra fluff, just an easy low-effort solution. The following were winning campaigns at Cannes 2014 that were just SOME of this year’s best examples of GOODVERTISING:


FIFA 2014: Top 5 Ads

5. Durex – “Don’t Fake It”, Havas Worldwide (TBC)

You’ve got to love condom ads. EXCELLENT thought here. Connecting faking it on the field to faking it in the bedroom is classic Durex humor. Supposedly, it’s not just a joke: Durex conducted a survey that found that 40% of 2,000 men would pick watching football over being with their partner. As for the ad, I wish the execution was better. It looks like an amateur fan video on YouTube – was it?

4. McDonalds- “GOL!”, DDB Chicago

I loved this ad because it didn’t feature any bigshot players. It ranks #4 on my list though because it could have been signed off by any brand and McDo plays no role here. Nicely done but not related to the product.

3. ESPN – “Time Zone”, Wieden + Kennedy

Thinking behind this one is smart: the World Cup being the one time that the entire world is operating on the same time zone to watch the games. Everyone united in their love for soccer: it’s appropriate to the brand and well shot.

2. Nike – “The Last Game”, Wieden + Kennedy

I’ve admired Nike’s communication for years. They know how to get your blood pumping which is perfect when you’re a brand that stands for an active lifestyle. This ad is beautifully crafted and has a story – another great one from W+K.

1. Beats – “The Game Before the Game”, R/GA USA

Normally, I wouldn’t connect headphones to football but Beats was clever. They created a connection prior to FIFA by making their product the thing that gets you into the zone (Hear What You Want). It cuts you off from the haters and gets you ready to take on the game ahead – whether that game is a day at the office or on the field. Using this same insight, they used Brazil’s Neymar Jr. and an excellent track for this spot. I’ve been listening to the song on loop for 3 days. A remix featuring JayZ was released recently so let the repeat continue.

Honorable Mentions:

1. Adidas – “The Dream”, TBWA\Chiat\Day
Only because of the Kanye track. Otherwise, this ad is “meh.”

2. Kia – “Adriana Lima Football vs. Futbol”, David&Goliath

Although the Optima has nothing to do with soccer, Kia made up for irrelevance by using hot Brazilian Adriana Lima to teach men about the real meaning of “futbol.”

3. Hyundai – “Avoidance”/”Boom”, INNOCEAN USA

Another car brand jumps into the race but, this time, their product actually plays a role in the story. The insight here of trying to avoid hearing the results of a game rings true. “Boom” has a cheeky storyline too. Nevertheless, cars aren’t really related to futbol so its purpose is forced.

Goodvertising: Coca Cola

“Goodvertising”, a term coming from Thomas Kolster’s book of the same title, is about how advertising can be used towards the good of mankind. Agencies and charities have come up with fantastic ideas that can make a difference, even in the most subtle and simple way. You can find out more about him and the book by watching this interview here.
One brand I want to focus on in this post is Coca Cola. Although they have not solved world hunger or started the One Laptop Per Child NGO, they are using their product and their brand to spread something that all people want and need: happiness. This year alone, Coke came up with innovative ways to push the envelope through unconventional media and technology, hashtagging it all as #workthatmatters.


1. Small World Machines

Through the use of their vending machines, Coke used basic video-calling technology and wide-angle cameras to be able to connect neighboring countries that are barred off from each other due to political conflict. Using simple gestures and tasks, they created connections between people who never get the chance to interact.

2. Sharing Can

Another spin on their product’s design, Coke created the ideal way to share a can: literally splitting it in two. The Sharing Can, brainchild of Ogilvy Singapore & France, was launched in Singapore in March but I have yet to find any info on the cans being distributed anywhere else since then. Leonardo O’Grady, director of integrated marketing communications, Coca-Cola ASEAN, related the mechanism to breaking a loaf of bread and that’s pretty accurate because it can be seen as the modern day loaf-sharing. *Aladdin and Abu* Plus, it’s a keepsake for those who admire product design (someone please send me one).
3. Smile Back

Most of the time, if a stranger smiles at you, you freak out and think the weirdo wants to kidnap you and wear your skin. No? Anyway, this shows how spreading smiles may not be as harmful as you think and when you take the chance to smile back, the universe rewards you. That was so Paulo Coelho, I’m sorry. Watch the vid though, it’s good stuff.

One that should be reproduced in Lebanon due to our disappearing parks:

And similar to BGP’s Green Your Lunch Break, Picnic 2013 as part of their “Let’s Eat Together” Happiness Table initiative:

So it’s no surprise that Coca Cola was named Creative Marketer of the Year at the 2013 Cannes Festival of Creativity.

Other cool Coke stuff:

Coke Remix Bottle
All Coke Submissions at Cannes