"Is this the land history promised? Here, within these lines, on this concrete court, this patch of turf. Here, you're defined by your actions. Not your looks or beliefs. Equality should have no boundaries." These are the times we live in. In which a major brand stating the painfully obvious (2017!) actually comes off . . . shudder . . . brave for saying it. Nike's "Equality" ad even comes with its own T-shirt. We know LeBron is no stranger to taking a stand from time to time, weighing in on political and social issues, but still. You know things are weird when sneaker ads appear political. Hard cut: Cheetos. Onward!
What: Nike asks if the ideals of sport—equality, judgment on performance, not appearance—can be transferred to all spects of life.
Who: Nike, Wieden+Kennedy Portland
Why We Care: It looks like Nike is taking a stand. In a country rife with division, the brand is siding with the progressive politics of inclusion. It shouldn't come as a big surprise, since the brand's bread and butter is rooted in young, urban consumers. But still, given how broad the brand's reach is, it's certainly not a given. Two weeks ago, CEO Mark Parker said in a memo to employees that the traditional values of inclusiveness his company stands for are being "threatened" by President Donald Trump. Now we have Alicia Keys covering Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," with appearances by Serena Williams, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Victor Cruz, narrator Michael B. Jordan, and more.
What: Sonos ad that wants to cure our homes of everyone together, all alone
Who: Sonos, Anomaly
Why We Care: The idea of technology making us more solitary, even when we're together is nothing new. Sonos continued its study, adding 9,000 people to its survey of 30,000 around the world last year, about the impact of listening to music together at home. Turns out, it means happier homes. Here, director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, A Place Beyond the Pines) turns in a stylish and foreboding mood here, until we're set free with a little Thin Lizzy.
What: Cooler brand Yeti releases a film that's a short profile of Canadian pro surfer Raph Bruhwiler, out on the rugged British Columbia coast.
Who: Yeti, director Keith Malloy
Why We Care: Who cares about coolers? Well, if you camp, you do. But, if the product quality is equal, is there really a difference between brands? With minimal branding, Yeti gets veteran surf filmmaker Keith Malloy to shine a light on the rugged life of Raph Bruhwiler, giving us a glimpse into a unique character amid a stunning landscape. This kind of content, which is part of an ongoing series, is exactly what turns consumers into fans.
What: A short film for the Atlantic starring Michael K. Williams, that aims to illustrate the need to be consistently asking questions, even of ourselves
Who: The Atlantic, Wieden+Kennedy New York
Why We Care: They could've hit it waaay too hard on the nose here and went with a whole Trumpian political angle, but this gets the point across in a much more unexpectedly brilliant and entertaining way. Sam Rosen, the Atlantic's vice-president of brand and customer growth, told me earlier this week that the goal was to position the brand as one for people who want to challenge assumptions, re-examine the conventional wisdom, prosecute the convenient explanations, and constantly rethink the world around us. Williams gives four great performances to get it done in a way that is charming, but effective.
What: Toronto stationery store Take Note uses handwritten notes to tell the story of a lifelong relationship.
Who: Take Note, BBDO Toronto
Why We Care: It's like an analog version of Google's brilliant 2009 spot "Parisian Love," but goes a few steps further into the Emo Zone for Valentine's Day, showing that great relationships aren't all flowers and chocolates. So that and tying it directly back to the product is pretty impressive, not to mention I'm still coming to terms with the fact I got a bit choked up watching notepads.