Holy Jurassic Park! It’s a Living, Breathing Print Ad. And it’s A Good One.

I just encountered something a lot of people believe is extinct. And, I have to admit, I’d begun to think they might be right. After all, you can only hear “Conventional advertising is dead!” and “Print advertising is thoroughly, dead. Stake-through-the-heart dead. Zombie-shot-in-the-head dead. Armadillo roadkill dead. Extinct. Fossilized” so many times before you despair and reluctantly begin believing it.

Especially when you see the evidence, or lack thereof, in newspapers and magazines. Ad pages are dwindling and the work that fills them is, for the most part, execrable. Or, even worse, just invisible.

But in a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal – yes, an actual, physical, printed-on-macerated-dead-trees newspaper – I came upon this big, striking ad for Shinola watches.

shinola-apple

I was slightly familiar with the Shinola story, about how Tom Kartsotis, previously of Fossil Group, adopted the brand name of a famous shoe polish (commonly found in the antiquated putdown “You’re so dumb, you don’t know sh*t from Shinola) and is now applying it to watches, leather goods and bicycles, all assembled in a hip factory in Detroit.

The brand’s products are meticulously conceived and marketed to appeal to folks who dwell in the 11206 Zip Code or aspire to. In other words, they’re the kind of small batch, artisanally-crafted, defiantly retro, slightly twee and precious merchandise that affluent hipsters snatch up by the fistful to help define their own, unique, individual style (no judgement here, I think the watch looks bitchin’).

So, given those brand characteristics, it makes sense they’d choose a small batch, artisanally-crafted, defiantly retro medium to promote their new watch, The Runwell (even the name is retro, precious and, clearly, handcrafted).

But, this is not just a print ad. It’s a really good print ad.

The strategy is clear: this is not for just anybody and, by wearing it, you’re declaring that you, yourself, are not just anybody. The copy is persuasive, devoid of hyperbole and written in complete, correctly punctuated sentences that are packed with attitude.

And the ad is beautifully designed (I have a beef with the all-uppercase body copy, but I’ll let it go).

The Runwell costs between $600 and $1,000, right in the price range of the entry-level Apple Watch. So, the fact that the ad ran directly opposite an article announcing the new Apple Watch made it all the more juicy. This is evidence that the media agency and the creative agency actually got together and planned for this to happen.

Everything about this effort is small-batch, artisanally crafted and precious. In other words, this ad was made the way effective communications have always been made, by smart people with a profound understanding of their product and their audience applying their considerable talents to the task of selling something.

Credit for this good work goes to Partners & Spade, in New York. I recently made some disparaging comments about this agency’s work for Whole Foods Markets, because I find it to be everything the Shinola ads are not, specious, sappy, packed with inflated “Here’s Why We’re Great” claims and all summed up with a chest-pounding tagline, “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store”, that I can’t believe ever got past the company’s attorneys.

A lot of my antipathy toward this work, though, is probably more personal than professional. I worked in advertising in Texas for a number of years and, during that time, every single agency in the state beat their knuckles bloody on Whole Foods’ doors, trying to get so much as a polite audience with the Austin-based grocer. But Whole Foods spurned us all, stating haughtily that they had no need of our hucksterish ways.

Now, all these years later, to see them award their business to a New York-based agency, then crank out this beautifully-shot organic pabulum, rankles my Lone-Star-Loyal sensibilities.

So, while I’ll probably be buying my kale and quinoa at Stop & Shop, if I find myself with $600 to $1,000 burning a hole in my pocket, I could easily be convinced to throw down for a Runwell, if for no other reason than to reward good, old-fashioned creative work. After all, I’m strictly a mechanical watch man. If you don’t have to wind it, I won’t wear it. I don’t believe this means I’m a wannabe hipster. I think it just means I’m sixty years old.

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3 comments

  1. Yes. I’ve been thinking recently that there is still a place for print, which is after all nothing but ‘content in-context’ in other words, native advertising. It just happens to be in a tactile format that millions of people still carry around and take with them into all the intimate rooms of their lives. It’s just that being in a non-screen format, people the right side of 30 are blind to it. (Though they, also, read magazines on occasion.) I also think there is still room for advertising versus interaction. To use the conversation analogy – in most conversations between people, there is, at some point, some self-promotion. And frankly it’s often what drives the conversation and the motivation to be interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Where you been? That campaign has been running (no pun) for awhile. Like you it caught my attention immediately. Not because of the irreverent name (why Mr Mount, do we think inserting *+$# into words makes them acceptably obscene?) but to the DDB look. Bold clean aggressive.
    Is it another trend like how cool it was to wear a Mickey Mouse watch? Sales are shining (yes pun) and stores are opening and I hope they make a small fortune but will the scuff (again) Apple’s attempt to revive Dick Tracy? It’s expensive to pretend to be a trend leader.

    I knocked on John Mackey’s door and got in, with the help of his PR counsel. Whole Foods did not need the help of us smart ass outsiders. They were too small then. Now he is in the big leagues is it amazing he passed the people at GSDM to taste NYC flavors?

    Print – as in magazines – is about as dead as radio. Take a walk through your nearest B&N. And

    Ms Victoria combined Teen magazines boast subscriptions in the millions .. that is people who actually pay to get the books dropped at their homes. 60% of WSJ readers are under 50 20 under 35!

    And Billy remember when we discovered Skytel’s ads – yours – outscored the competition and in fact when people saw competitor ads their likability scores actually went down! I immediately told media buyers to place Skytel spots as close to competition as possible.
    This is where you say f*^#ing brilliant.
    😀

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    1. Uncle Don, you were and always shall be f*^#ing brilliant. Aside from you weird concerns about air travel and sock feet, you’ve always been a pure pleasure to work with. I was aware that Shinola was around and becoming a thing, but I had not seen an actual ad for them anywhere. Being on the wrong side of all demography, I’m sure I’m nowhere near their bullseye. In fact, if I walked in a store and waved a Platinum Amex in the salesperson’s mustachioed face, he’d probably still refuse to sell me a Runwell because having it show up on my wrist would not be in the best interest of the brand.

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