Stevie Archer, ECD at SS+K, part of M&C Saatchi Group, speaks to LBB’s Addison Capper about upcycling sweatpants into hiking boots and writing a rap all about it for Business Iceland
As parts of the world begin to open, the decision of where to go for that first, big holiday as a vaccinated human is a biggie. What kind of destination is worthy of such a significant moment?
Unsurprisingly, Business Iceland thinks it's Iceland and is trying to convince potential travellers with a new campaign. It was created by SS+K, part of the M&C Saatchi Group, which has been working with the organisation since the early days of the pandemic. The new campaign is centred around the idea of turning one of the most universal lockdown garments, the sweatpant, into hiking boots. It launched with a 90-second music video style spot that boasts a rap all about sweatpants that is actually really quite catchy and we're fully here for it. It is performed by Icelandic artist Cell 7 and produced by Ásgeir Orri Ásgeirsson.
To find out more about turning sweatpants into boots, LBB's Addison Capper chatted to Stevie Archer, executive creative director at SS+K.
LBB> What was the initial brief like from Business Iceland? Were there any nuances in it that particularly stood out for you when you first saw it?
Stevie> We have been working with Business Iceland since last year and our creative strategy during lockdown was to help people get the emotional reward of a vacation to Iceland they so desperately needed by virtually escaping - whether it was screaming into giant yellow speakers, or joyscrolling through 22.7 metres of delightful Icelandic content.
This brief was different in that it was the first time since the lockdown that we would be encouraging people to actually leave home and visit Iceland in person. That first trip out into the world is a huge step for people to take, both literally and emotionally. The brief our strategist, Elena Claro, created with Business Iceland was about expressing how Iceland could help people get back out there and experience all the feelings they’d been missing out on and craving since they’d been cooped up.
LBB> Where did you go from there? I feel like it's such a simple but also hugely difficult task to encourage tourists to a particular location given the uncertain situation still facing many people.
Stevie> We knew we would be competing with a lot of other destinations for traveller attention since the world is opening back up. So we couldn’t go out with an ordinary message that would get lost amongst the competition. Fortunately Iceland’s strength, in addition to the fact that they have handled Covid very adeptly, is that it is not an ordinary destination. It’s epic, exhilarating and unique, with every region offering a different experience. So we focused on the notion that travellers who had been inhibited and shut in for so long would want to get back out there in a big way and make up for all that they’d missed out on.
And despite the challenges and complexity of promoting tourism throughout Covid, our clients at Business Iceland have always pushed us to keep pushing the boundaries creatively. Their bravery in embracing nontraditional ideas has made the seemingly difficult task a real joy, because together we’re figuring out how to solve new challenges in entirely new ways.
LBB> Where did the idea to turn sweatpants into boots come from? How did you even discover that was a possibility? Tell me more!
Stevie> Over the past year, sweatpants became the unofficial wardrobe of lockdown. They were our source of comfort and safety, but also a reminder of how static and boring our lives became while we were stuck inside. Because they were such a powerful symbol, we kept toying with the idea of using sweatpants for something, but couldn’t quite land it. In the eleventh hour, creative team Camila Gurgel and Ieva Paulina hit on the idea of turning sweatpants into hiking boots.
And it seemed bonkers but made total sense - to take the symbol of lockdown and turn them into a symbol for Icelandic adventure. Hiking boots are a must for an Icelandic vacation because you can’t go to a volcano or hike a glacier in sneakers. So the idea was the perfect way to let people all over the world know that Iceland was going to help them get out and experience the most epic, adventurous vacation they could possibly have.
In terms of bringing the sweatpant boots to life, sneaker modification has been a big trend for a long time. Iceland has an amazing design community and production capabilities so anything is possible. Magnús Magnússon and Egill Þórðarson, at our partner agency Peel Iceland, coordinated design talent and managed the boots production.
Our first step was to source a base hiking boot that was sustainably and ethically made. Then Magnús and Egill enlisted textile designer Ýr Jóhannsdóttir, and she developed a design that incorporated the cuffs and material of the sweatpants into the shoes. She worked with a shoemaker in Reykjavík to source machines that could sew through the boot material and each pair is constructed by hand at the pop-up shop in downtown Reykjavík.
LBB> What inspired the musical approach to the spot? And how did you get Cell7 and producer Ásgeir Orri Ásgeirsson involved in the project?
Stevie> For this campaign in particular we wanted it to have the real, uninhibited joy that represents Iceland and captures how people want to feel now that Covid is easing. Our creative team Camila and Ieva came up with a rap as a way to express that joy and embody the quirkiness of the idea. It’s also a clever way to repeat the key phrase ‘Sweatpants boots baby’ over and over - and who could possibly resist such an earworm??
Based on the rap concept, our Icelandic partners Magnús and Egill enlisted Cell7 an Icelandic rapper and Ásgeir Orri Ásgeirsson to turn it into a real, legitimate song.
LBB> The song is a bit of a banger and (please don't take this the wrong way) could have EASILY been quite annoying. What was the writing and production process like? Did you work quite closely with the artists on it?
Stevie> Iceland is home for a lot of world-class musical talent and from the very beginning our Business Iceland clients made it clear that if we were going to make a song, it should be as good as a real song, not just a marketing jingle. And the good thing about working with artists of the calibre of Ásgeir and Cell7 is that they are creators, not marketers.
Ásgeir composed the structure and instrumentation of the song and we provided an outline of the message of the lyrics. Cell7 and Ásgeir took the themes of that outline and crafted it into lyrics that would work musically and with her delivery style. We collaborated back and forth a few rounds to find the balance of communicating the idea clearly, without getting too sales-y.
LBB> What kind of reaction did you get from people that were able to get their hands on some sweatpant boots?
Stevie> The reactions have been awesome. We ‘sold out’ of the initial inventory in a matter of hours after the campaign launched and now have a waitlist every day as we release new inventory. We actually had people stopping by the pop-up store before it was officially open asking about the boots and hoping to get a pair because they had heard about the idea on TikTok.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
Stevie> The hardest part of this campaign was sourcing hiking boots that met our criteria for sustainability, easy customisation, and had the range of sizes in the quantities we needed. We took an all-hands on deck approach and did a lot of outreach before finding our partner boot company, Will’s Vegan.
Shockingly, the easiest part of this campaign was getting an incredible dramatic performance from the Fagradalsfjall volcano on our shoot day. Who knew lava would be so cooperative?
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Stevie> After a year of working together remotely throughout lockdown, Business Iceland brought our international team together in Iceland to finally meet in person for the campaign launch. And without a doubt, there is no better way to launch a campaign than from a geothermal lagoon in your bathing suits... of course after you’ve removed your sweatpant boots.