Adidas Originals, Johannes Leonardo and MPC New York on smashing the status quo in ‘Your Future Is Not Mine'
Today’s media has painted a grim picture of Earth’s future. No matter what you read or where you look, it seems that only world leaders, hell-bent on dropping bombs on top of people, will beat climate change in the race to end civilisation. But what if the future didn’t have to look so bleak? What if we, the people of today, could get off our behinds and write our own futures? That’s what adidas Originals is aiming to inspire you to do with their new campaign.
In a new global brand spot from Johannes Leonardo and RSA Films director Terence Neale, we see a squad of upcoming artists and cultural influencers breaking through the status quo. They’re not content to let dystopia become their destiny. The campaign ‘Your Future Is Not Mine’, is notably linked to last year’s ‘Superstar’ project, which challenged the ideals that make up superstardom, using global stars like Pharrell.
LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with adidas Originals Global Senior Director - Brand Communications, Alegra O’Hare, Johannes Leonardo Founding Member and Creative Director, Ferdinando Verderi, and Rob Walker, and Chris Bernier of MPC New York, who post produced the film, to find out how the campaign came to be.
LBB> What was the brief that you first approached Johannes Leonardo with?
AO> We wanted a brand campaign for adidas Originals that spoke to the brand values of the trefoil, like community, courage and creativity, and we also wanted to create conversation around a theme that was important to the current generation. After talking to them directly, we realised that the theme of the future was very heartfelt and close to them. With the current state of affairs in the world, it is definitely a moment in time which is unique to all generations.
LBB> I think fashion campaigns can focus far too heavily on a specific protagonist and suffer from a lack of meaning. Whereas with this you are really challenging people’s fears and perceptions of the future. How did you land on this approach? What kind of research led to it?
AO> We talked to creative communities in key cities like New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Tokyo, Paris and London – and the future theme completely resonated with them. It is something that they all really had concerns about, whether it is the environment, current geo-political shifts, cultural threats… It was a way to capture this and with ‘Your Future is Not Mine’ tell them to not be influenced by this and go in their own direction, because that future will definitely be better.
LBB> Ferdinando, how did you approach the campaign, strategically? Where did you look for insights and what were the key findings that informed the brief for the creatives?
FV> We have been working closely with the Originals team, and that closeness is quite unique as it took us beyond the typical agency-client relationship. The strategy is the fruit of this collaborative creative process. We spent a lot of time at the adidas HQ in Germany, where we were invited behind the scenes of the product development process.
Indeed, 2016 is ‘the year of the future’ at Originals and that’s something that starts from their products. The design team's new creations re-invent the brand's collective memory through innovation and playing with the archives to invent the future.
This is a process that is quintessentially adidas Originals, as the wealth of their archive has no competition, and it is full of pieces that at their time pushed innovation forward. Simultaneously, we spoke extensively with the next generation of cultural creators in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris and London and we learned that their creative philosophy was completely in line with the one Originals is shaping.
LBB> How is ‘Your Future Is Not Mine’ linked with last year’s Superstar campaign?
AO> Creativity is about courage and questioning things. Challenging the status quo is intrinsic to creators and to forward-thinkers, and I would say that is the common denominator of the two campaigns. We also love our community, and the people that feel close to the trefoil – that is why you see them featured in our work. Also, lots of cool sneakers!
FV> Both ideas challenge the status quo by questioning the dominant interpretation of something very important to all young creators. We said Superstar is not what you think it is, we are now saying the future is not what the media makes you think it is. Both campaigns raise questions but don't aim to offer answers. They provide the Originals take on these conversations, aiming to inspire a new generation – one by saying that the road to superstardom has nothing to do with external validation, and the other by saying that the best way to predict one's future is to create it.
LBB> Where did the idea to challenge the perception of a dystopian future stem from?
FV> The idea stems from the fact that every generation tends to think of themselves as the last one, as if the world is going to end with them. Even more so now, with the huge generational gap that exists between the world leaders of today and the next generation of creators. The new generation has been bombarded with predictions of a future which is inevitably dark. Every piece of entertainment and news out there is envisioning dystopian scenarios. As a brand routed in creative courage, we believe the next generation has all the rights to create a bright future for themselves.
LBB> Terence, from a directorial point of view, where did you draw inspiration for these themes? The whole ‘anti-dystopian’ vibe is quite unique.
TN> A very common view of the future is that it will be negative and dystopian. The thing I loved most is that the commercial celebrates a dystopian future as inspiring. Young people now have the platform to do anything they want. Although the future is unknown, the commercial is about the youth out there making their own future.
LBB> There are lots of little extra details that I keep noticing with each watch - for example, I just clocked the canoodling couple and showering lady with what look like VR headsets on. How did you go about coming up with these ideas and developing them?
TN> The edges of frame were the most fun to play with - it was a place to insert subversive and humorous details. Most of the ideas came from my original treatment, inspired by things that will have an immediate effect on the future. This was definitely one of those jobs where the ideas kept evolving right up until the last second.
LBB> Alegra, when you first saw the script, what was your reaction?
AO> Well the first time around we were not at this point. I remember sitting with Johannes Leonardo in the meeting room, in what seemed to be an endless meeting, and kept murmuring to myself “guys…it’s here….we just need to look for it…” And then future as a theme hit us!
LBB> Can you tell us a bit about the people in the film and how they embody the adidas Originals brand?
AO> It’s a group of individuals each having their unique creative spirit. We are really happy they chose to be part of this campaign and are proud to work with them. We are also happy to have worked with Daisy Hamel-Buffa on the music, who did an outstanding job.
FV> The influencers are emerging creators that have been picked based on their attitude and their determination in pursuing their own vision. They all express themselves in different disciplines, but what they have in common is a sense of confidence and direction. They are extremely young, but they all have a creative approach that involves the past as a source of inspiration and reference.
LBB> From a creative perspective, what were the biggest challenges in developing the campaign?
FV> Taking on such a huge theme like future is not simple. It required a lot of integrity earlier on in the creative process, when distilling the tension on which we wanted to build the idea.
LBB> I really love the final shot as it flicks through the different boxed environments. From an art direction point of view, what were you trying to achieve there?
FV> The narrative of the film goes from the depiction of a dystopian future to the one of a positive one. The finale is a culmination of such a journey, which, in a way, is never over. The future is always one step further, and it will always be one bit brighter. The important thing is going towards it with the defiant determination and optimism this community embodies.
LBB> And from a directorial point of view, what were you trying to achieve there Terence?
TN> Thanks. I think it's a striking visual shorthand for the overall concept. It was also a way to end the story without resorting to ridiculous prayer poses or grand musical climaxes. Throughout the commercial the camera is on a journey with the subjects, but it’s more removed - observing the action. At the end, the camera is more active as it flies through the subjects towards the undetermined future.
LBB> Why did you decide to work with RSA’s Terence Neale as director? What did he bring to the finished spot?
FV> Matt Edwards, Wes Phelan and I loved Terence's music video work with Die Antwoord as it managed to do something very rare: merge irreverent edge with a sense of lightheartedness.
We thought of him as an artist, more so than as an advertising director, as we wanted his natural edge to break through uncompromised. As a brand that celebrates creative courage, Originals has displayed some courage itself in allowing us to treat our collaborators this way. We worked the same way with Pieter Hugo, whose art series 'Hyena & Other Men' and 'Permanent Error' have been very influential to the aesthetic of this campaign.
LBB> You worked with Squeak E Clean on the music, which is an original track by artist Daisy Hamel-Buffa. How did you arrive at that track and what do you think it brings to the finished spot?
FV> It was another example of collaboration. Matt, Wes and I immediately felt that the Squeak E Clean team had understood the idea at a very deep emotional level, moreover, Daisy's voice and her interpretation are key to the feelings the song awakens. For us the song has a very important role in the film, as it communicates the feeling of community this generation is built on.
LBB> Terence, from a directorial point of view, what were the biggest challenges in developing the campaign?
TN> The concept depends on the subjects always moving forward towards a vanishing point, and therefore away from camera. At first I struggled with how the audience would connect with a cast you mostly see from behind. When we shot we came up with ways for the cast to turn to camera, but in the edit it became clear that the fact they are moving away adds intrigue and momentum. In the end it's the most powerful part of telling the story.
LBB> As a client, what was your experience of the production process? What are your favourite memories of the shoot?
AO> The teams slept about three hours a night for almost an entire week while filming in Budapest. All my admiration goes to them and the hard work that they put in!
LBB> From a VFX point of view, how much and what kind of research did you have to under-take for this project?
MPC> We worked closely with Terence, the director, to lock down locations, particularly looking for places where we could extend the vanishing points. We researched various camera techniques, exploring the best way to capture the footage whilst giving us the flexibility for augmentation in post production. [Rob Walker, VFX Supervisor]
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
MPC> The void was the was the trickiest thing overall – achieving that sense of speed and progress, and maintaining a sense of cohesion through very different spaces, keeping a smooth transition and getting a sense of sameness, as though it’s one shot through the future – that took weeks of work. It was tricky to line all of these up and find the right perspectives and speeds that could make all the scenes match up properly. [Chris Bernier, 3D Artist]
LBB> Alegra, what sort of response are you seeing from the public?
AO> Incredibly positive. Nowadays, in marketing you aren’t allowed to screw up. If people don’t like it, they will tell you! It’s not the case anymore like it was 20 years ago with just a TV ad and pre-post research.
LBB> Aside from the TV spot, what other activities are feeding into the campaign?
FV> We worked with three great photographers, Pieter Hugo, Tyrone Lebon and Oliver Hadlee Pearch, to create visuals that express the future idea in three very different ways. We chose these artists because of the un-compromised nature of their work, each of them challenging the status quo of their photographic genres, and each of them, constantly re-inventing the collective visual memory through turning classical references into fresh ideas.
LBB> What’s up next for the adidas Originals?
AO> Business is booming for adidas Originals, and we are onto our next big thing. We have no time to rest, each month of 2016 will have something unexpected and creative from us.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
FV> There is a lot more to come, and very soon. As a team, we are extremely proud to be working with a brand who doesn't just speak about creative courage, but actually embodies it, by supporting bold ideas and by creating the most relevant products in the industry. 'Nothing is sacred' is the creative ethos we have all been living by.
- Alegra O’Hare is Global Senior Director - Brand Communications at adidas Originals
- Ferdinando Verderi is Founding Member and Creative Director at Johannes Leonardo