By ANN GRIMES
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
October 26, 2000 - Nike Inc. pulled a print-magazine advertising campaign for a new running
shoe after disabilities-rights groups claimed the ads were offensive. The
advertisements for the Nike ACG Air Dri-Goat, appeared in several
national and nine regional outdoor magazines and referred to people with
disabilities as "drooling and misshapen."
"The ad expressed the kind of antiquated bias we are fighting to eradicate,"
said Mark Kleid, channel producer at eBility.com, a Web site for people
with disabilities (www.ebility.com) that launched the protest Monday. "It is
outrageous that Nike and its ad agency allowed such denigrating words to
be published," he said in an e-mail.
After pulling the ads, Nike's
director of USA
Weinstein, issued a formal
apology on the sportswear
company's Web site. "We feel
just horrible about this ad," he
said. "Clearly, disabilities of
any form are no laughing matter and that paragraph should not have been
included in the ad." Nike said the ad was intended to show how the right
equipment can prevent injuries.
Nike also pointed out it has a "strong record on employing people with
different abilities, and has included athletes as diverse as Craig Blanchette,
Casey Martin, Ric Munoz and others in its advertising." Nike also outfitted
the 2000 Australian Paralympic Team.
The ad was produced by Nike's longtime advertising agency Wieden +
Kennedy of Portland, Ore. The text accompanying the ad includes the
following sentence: "Right about now you're probably asking yourself,
'How can a trail running shoe with an outer sole designed like a goat's hoof
help me avoid compressing my spinal cord into a Slinky on the side of
some unsuspecting conifer.
Thereby rendering me a drooling, misshapen non-extreme-trail running
husk of my former self. Forced to roam the earth in a motorized wheelchair
with my name, embossed on one of those cute little license plates you get
at carnivals or state fairs, fastened to the back?' "
The agency's chief executive, Dan Wieden, also apologized in a statement.
"We have stepped over the line with this advertisement and there is no
excuse for it.
We have hurt a group of people for whom we have enormous admiration.
These are men and women who demonstrate more courage in a single day
than most of us will in our lifetime; who accomplish more, inspire more, and
have far more reasons to be proud. For myself personally and for this
advertising agency, I deeply apologize. I only wish there were a way to run
the clock backwards."
Mr. Weinstein said he first read the ad copy on Monday after the company
started getting negative e-mail. "I was aghast," he said. The copy somehow
"got through our approval process," he said. The Nike employee who
worked on the ad had left the company earlier this year. "Everybody feels
pretty horrible about it," Mr. Weinstein said.
The print campaign, he said, was scheduled to run in the November issues
of several national magazines including Outside, Men's Journal, National
Geographic Adventure and several regional sports publications, including
Blue Ridge Outdoors.
The ad has been pulled from all publications except the December issue of
Climbing Magazine, he said.
"Their ads have a history of high quality, good taste, many are
award-winning. So there's not much of a vetting process with an advertiser
like Nike," said Men's Journal spokeswoman Julie Polkes. "We don't look
at their ads under a microscope."
Mr. Weinstein said Nike is reviewing its internal approval processes "to
make sure this doesn't happen again."
This isn't the first time Nike advertisements have generated controversy.
During the Olympics the company launched its three-part "Why Sport?"
campaign. One television ad, a parody of the "Texas Chain Saw
Massacre," featured runner Suzy Favor Hamilton wearing Nike's
interactive sports bra running from an attacker. NBC pulled it.
"We have a history of pushing the envelope with ads," Mr. Weinstein said,
adding, "We know in some cases we're going to generate a reaction, in a
lot of cases that's a good thing. Certainly, this oversteps the bounds of
good taste and is very insensitive and doesn't represent us."
Nike declined to discuss costs related to the advertising campaign and the
pulling of the ads.
Write to Ann Grimes at firstname.lastname@example.org