Ad Space – The Sports Illustrated Sneaker Phone

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Sports Illustrated magazine

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
It’s a phone … and it’s a sneaker! (except you probably shouldn’t try wearing it)

I want to be clear: I don’t think the sneaker phone giveaway is a bad idea. In the 1980’s and 90’s, there was definitely a market for kitschy, shaped-like-something-else landline phones. And being promised a free one when you subscribe to a magazine? I could see that winning over someone who was on the fence. It’s a decent promotional offer.

But this ad … this is a ridiculous level of overselling.

Like, maybe if it had been presented as a skit, then the people going gaga over the sneaker phone wouldn’t seem so over the top; it would just be the usual level of hyperbole we expect from commercials. But the way this ad is structured, it clearly wants us to believe these are not actors but real people, really discovering a sneaker that’s actually a phone, and really losing their shit over it.

That changes how we relate to the ad. Instead of viewing it through the lens of “sure, it’s a commercial, of course the characters are all super into the product”, we’re instead asked to imagine real people reacting this way to the sneaker phone. What’s more, we maybe even think that this is how Sports Illustrated expects us, the viewers, to react their footwear-shaped telephonic device.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but in me, that produces an immediate response of, “No, that’s not what happens. Don’t try to tell me people get this excited over a sneaker phone. That’s just a lie. You’re lying, you liars.”