Adidas' eccentric new ad is not just for art students

Unruly's social video experts review "Original is never finished", the latest viral by Adidas.

"If you ever wanted to see what an award-winning rapper looks like transmogrified into a canine, then 'Original is never finished' might just be for you."


8 / 10

When the music video for Kanye West’s Famous dropped early last year, there was some understandable controversy. Critics couldn’t seem to decide whether the video was art, indulgence or a heady mix of both.

The same fate seems destined for Adidas ’ divisive new campaign, "Original is never finished", which reframes Frank Sinatra through the lens of high fashion, youth culture and jarring visual flourishes.

Love it or hate it, it’s certainly unforgettable.

Released last week, the spot begins with a series of arresting images. Sportswear-clad teens hanging like bats from a pole. A cloaked man stares out at the camera with white laces draped across his shoulders. Masked kids swing flaming torches.

If this all sounds like material for a post-apocalyptic Mad Max film, then you’re not far off. Aesthetically, "Original is never finished" is ambitious in the extreme, preferring a profoundly memorable aesthetic over any easily-summarised plot.

Directed by Terrence Neale, who has leant his ragged sci-fi look to previous Adidas campaigns, the spot is intended to be a cross-cultural pot pourri.

According to Wes Phalen, director of agency Johannes Leonardo, "Original is never finished" is meant to encompass elements of music, art, film and photography. And it certainly does that, cutting seamlessly between grainy home footage, homages to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and a reworking of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.

While all the self-reference may appeal to the art history students in the crowd, Adidas has also peppered the spot with fleeting celebrity cameos, from Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, to Stormzy, to Snoop Dogg himself.

This final appearance feels particularly appropriate, given some of the ad’s more arresting sequences shows humans wearing oddly realistic dog heads.

So, if you ever wanted to see what an award-winning rapper looks like transmogrified into a canine, then "Original is never finished" might just be for you. A lot of the spot’s visuals, whether it’s black basketballs raining from the sky or women destroying drones with baseball bats, work on this kind of shock value.

Of course, some have been shocked. A quick scroll through the video’s comments on YouTube find as many accounts praising the ad’s visuals as labelling it "satanic", "Illuminati" and just plain "weird". But with over four million views since release, "Original is never finished" is already making a splash.

With plenty of big-budget sports advertising to compete with, Adidas has taken the clever route of differentiating themselves by creating their own marketing genre. If Nike produces the blockbusters of the ad world, then Adidas seems to be the arthouse alternative, producing off-kilter visions which darkly reflect real aspects of our current world.

Who knows whether the brand can top the strange inventiveness of "Original is never finished", but we’re thrilled to see them try.