In his book Ogilvy on Advertising, Madison Avenue macher David Ogilvy wrote: “Whenever you can, make the product itself the hero of your advertising.”
Nike’s advertising, though, has always been about the hero as product.
Now, with its latest Tiger Woods ad, Nike is going for the tragic hero as product.
That would be the late Earl Woods speaking (think ghost of Hamlet’s father), and here’s what he says:
Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive.
To promote discussion.
I want to find out what your thinking was.
I want to find out what your feelings are.
And did you learn anything?
Scamlet: The Tiger Woods Story follows the standard arc of classical tragedy: Man rises (often from lowly status) to a position of high stature but he has a fatal flaw (typically hubris, or overweening pride) that leads to his downfall.
Act V: The possibility of redemption. As in, the above kickoff ad to the Tiger Woods Rehabilitation Tour.
Memo to anyone claiming it’s unseemly for this pathetic drama to play out in commercial time:
Tiger Woods lives in commercial time.
From a New York Times Magazine piece several weeks ago:
Off the course, he was a composite character created by the various commercials in which he starred. They supplemented our limited picture of the man, giving him a sense of humor (he walks across water to rescue his ball from a lily pad); whimsy (he bounces a golf ball on the face of his club while passing it behind his back and between his legs before smacking the ball in midair like a baseball); and even a touch of moral bite (“There are still courses in the U.S. I am not allowed to play because of the color of my skin”).
The more intimate glimpses of Woods’s life that were missing from his cursory pre- and post-tournament interviews came via TV commercials, too: his father’s death was memorialized with a Father’s Day ad featuring home-video footage of the two of them; his son’s birth with an ad that conjured the forging of the boy’s first set of golf clubs (complete with a personalized bag: “Baby Woods”).
Oh, baby, look at Tiger now.