Nike’s switch to Wieden & Kennedy inspires conflicting
Many will feel a good deal of sympathy for the Simons Palmer crew. Its
work on the brand has ranged from the very good to the outstanding. From
the ’Kick It’ commercial to ’Parklife’ and a succession of excellent
posters: ’Behind every goalkeeper’, ’1966’, ’He’s been punished’ and
others right up to this year’s illustrated campaign. Nike came from
relative obscurity to become the market leader in sportswear, and the
ads - although they occasionally overdosed on testosterone -
encapsulated the ’just do it’ philosophy.
In the meantime Simons Palmer, as was, had to live with persistent
rumour and speculation that Wieden & Kennedy, the US hotshop that
handles the rest of the world and all the non-football and rugby stuff
we see here too, was to open up in the UK and snaffle the account. It
got worse when the agency did make a foray into Europe and set up in
Amsterdam, but Nike stayed loyal.
But then Simons Palmer gave Nike an excuse to review which the work had
not justified. Its deal with TBWA, while hugely beneficial in many
obvious ways, allowed Nike to argue that it was time to see what else
was out there. It’s also a client with an image that requires it to be
with the sexiest agency in town. TBWA Simons Palmer, for the moment,
does not enjoy that reputation, despite the staff’s growing confidence
in the combined force.
After the acrimony of the deal and the fall-out of Trevor Beattie’s
departure, the agency has settled down. Those who went to its recent
launch party can testify to a positive spirit pervading in an exciting
And the staff have been buoyed by new business from Apple Computer,
Virgin and Sharwoods, as well as making it to the Guinness and ITV
But there’s no hiding from the Nike loss. It’s a disaster. It would be
for whichever agency lost it, but particularly so for a merged operation
trying to forge a new identity for itself, and attempting to prove it
has not lost that creative edge or been smothered by international
Nike gave the agency its best chance of creating award-winning work.
But the awards themselves are a bonus; it’s more the opportunity to work
with a like-minded client which has a history of buying outstanding and
challenging creative work. Nike is the kind of client that agency staff
go to work for. It’s not the loss of income that will hit the agency
hardest, it is the talismanic effect of the brand on the client
But don’t write them off. Messrs Simons, Clemmow and Johnson have
consistently been underrated by the UK advertising community. If they
win Guinness or ITV, Nike will soon be forgotten by all bar the creative
But they need one of them.