Sunday, 22 September 2013


I admit it.

I have a problem.

It all started back in 1995 when I clapped eyes, and feet, on Nike’s newest iteration of their famous Air Max running shoe.

You’ll know them. 

The ones with the black/neon yellow/white colourway with graduated suede panels and nylon mesh and 3M reflective strips, coloured visible air-units with PSI pressure reading and speed-lacing system with high density mesh eyelets.

To this day considered by many to be the best trainer ever made, they were a technological marvel, a design masterpiece and comfy as hell.

Moreover they succeeded in hooking me, and numerous other poor sods like me, into a world from which there’s no return.

These were by no means the first trainers I’d owned. 

I’d had many pairs of Vans in the past. 

But those Nikes marked the first time I’d not worn a pair of shoes til they plain wore out.

They become the the first pair of what would end up as ‘a collection’.

More specifically, a Nike collection.

(I do actually own a pair of Reebok Pumps, the result of an early bit of experimentation, but they rarely see the light of day.)

My desire ignited by these neon masterpieces, I soon found myself making regular trips to the newly opened Nike Town on Oxford Circus.

When I’d exhausted their selection I ended up skulking round back alleys of soho looking for limited edition releases in the exclusive and highly priced trainer boutiques.

New colourways and fabric versions were purchased as a matter of course.

Business trips to the States took on a new exciting angle. Would the Nike Town on East 57th Street have a slightly different selection to its European counterpart?

Then, in 1997 my first child was born. 

I was forced to temper my purchases. Funds became rather annoyingly re-directed towards less important things like nappies and babygrows. 

More practically, a new baby meant I no longer had the time needed to cruise the shops to snap up any new releases.

But just when I thought I’d got out, those pushers in Portland pulled me back in.

Nike created the most amazing web utility the world has ever seen: Nike ID.

The opportunity to create a totally bespoke, utterly unique pair of Nikes was irresistible. 

I indulged myself whole-heartedly.

Throughout all this, I felt I’d avoided ‘going overboard’ by not keeping my shoes in their boxes like many sneakerheads, who end up annexing spare rooms or renting lock-ups for their stockpiles. 

No, I just kept mine stashed around the house. 

And basement.

Eventually I was forced to face my problem when my wife and son staged an intervention.

I came home to find they’d gathered every pair of shoes I owned and lined them up. The line stretched all the way from the front of the house to the back.

But far from halting my habit, this action, combined with the fact that we had actually run out of storage space at home, just prompted me to 'go underground'. I vowed from then on to keep all new purchases at the office.

There is, however, a line I just won’t cross. 

I absolutely refuse to queue for days like the many other trainerholics you can often see filling the pavements for days outside the likes of Nike’s 1948 in Shoreditch or Soho’s Foot Patrol. 

I must confess however I have found myself counting down the seconds at my computer waiting for the ‘one minute past midnight’ online release of certain pairs.

The sneaker bloggers haven’t helped matters. 

They’re busy whipping up a frenzy of excitement for addicts with their sneak previews, sometimes months ahead of their actual release date, documenting in minute detail every mouth-watering new innovation. 

And there’s always a steady stream of those. 

In recent months alone Nike has given us woven shoes, knitted shoes and a pair made out of cork.

They have a name for these: Quick Strikes or QSs. Released in tiny numbers. They go for 300% of their initial cost on eBay almost immediately.

Relatively recently, a new and shockingly powerful tool has emerged to help those pushers tantalise their prey.

Instagram has led to photos of new shoes being pumped straight to addicts’ eyeballs the precise second each new pair is exposed to the world.

The numbers are astonishing. 

The feed of trainer blog The Drop Date for example is being followed by 3,000 people. 

Soho boutique Foot Patrol has 7,000 followers. 

As does Nike’s 1948 space in Shoreditch. 

Crooked Tongues has 9,000. Sneakerfreaker 10,000. 

Daily sole 11, 000. 

And Nike’s hidden-away New York store 21 Mercer has 42,000 people hanging on their every shot. 

And then it starts getting scary. 

Kicks On Fire has 238,000 followers. 

Nice Kicks has 530,000. 

And the almighty Sneaker News, 746, 000. 

There is one thing about these bonkers statistics I find comforting however.

They prove quite conclusively that I’m not alone.

They also prove that this kind of habit isn’t simply a fashion thing.

It’s more profound than that.

Is it about a love of design?

Of technology? 

Of innovation?

Or perhaps it stems from something more deep-seated than that? 

Satiating some fundamental deep human need?


But I’m fucked if I know.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Look at what they make you give.

This week a creative team in India was fired for creating and publicising some ads they’d done for their client, Ford.

They weren’t fired because their ads were bad. And they were. Terribly.

They were fired because they’d released them to the press without them having run, or, allegedly, without their client even being aware of them. And these facts meant that when the world complained about how offensive it found them, the client was able to point the finger back at the agency who in turn poked its finger straight into the creatives' eyes.

Before the shit hit the fan they must have felt very pleased.

They’d managed to get the ads ‘out’ just before the Cannes entry deadline.

And anyone whose ever worked in the creative department of a network agency knows just how important that is.

Since the launch of the Gunn Report in 1999 being seen at the top of its agency list has become  an obsession for agency networks communications 

The holding companies see the Gunn Report as an empirical means to quantify their creativity.

They task their agency networks with winning awards.

Who bonus their global creative directors to win awards.

Who pressurise their regional creative directors to win awards.

Who end up pressuring their creative departments to win awards.

The emerging markets are especially susceptible to all this pressure. Awards propel their people and agencies onto a global stage and gain the much needed attention of their network paymasters.

The Cannes awards are famous for being populated with scam ads. 

(The Cannes juries are famous for being populated with cheats. This year they’ve announced they are reviewing they judging procedure to stop cheating.)

Creatives have had to master the art of coming up with ads, finding photographers or directors to make them and finding clients to run them.

In their desperation to win they can sometimes lose their way and take short-cuts. 

Like these poor guys in India.

There’s a line in The Bourne Identity where a hit-man who’s tried and failed to kill Jason Bourne lies dying and says to Bourne: “Look. Look what they make you give.”

You’ve got to feel for those guys in JWT India.

They’re told to win awards at all costs.

And these poor sods paid the ultimate price.