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write commercials &

Because "comfort" and "Fashion" don't usually get along

 

How do you market a 3-inch heel
for its unique comfort profile without  Damaging its Fashionability?

So along comes  a major shoe brand eager to expand its sales among career-minded women between 26 and 45. Their 75-mm pump was a priority SKU for this demographic, and they were looking for a playful 20-second commercial to demonstrate the all-day wearability of the product.

That's a tricky ask, and for three reasons. For one, this brand has spent decades marketing its shoes as a comfort-first choice, and comfort-first tends to mean fashion-second. The result was a dated, doughty brand image and sluggish sales among younger consumers seeking a more style-forward brand association.

I don’t know what it’s like to wear pumps to work. I don’t. I swear.

Second, there's a huge practical challenge here. The product's key selling point is its unique day-to-night wearability, mostly resulting from a technological innovation in the composition of the shoe's heel. So while the client specifically asked for the commercial to spotlight this all-day wearability, it's really tough to pack an entire day's worth of shoe-wearing activities into a 20-second spot.

Third, I don't really know what it's like to wear pumps to work. I'm not opposed to it, per se. It's just not something that's really come up in my life. Promise.

So I started with a little non-scientific homework. I interviewed a dozen women in the target demographic from a variety of fields and industries— academics, creatives, attorneys, artists, white-collar professionals. They all hated heels, without exception, and often with a passion. Yet every one of them owned at least one pair of heels as a matter of necessity. Some of these women worked in industries (banking, law, sales) where heels were still expected, while others kept a pair strictly for particular occasions (weddings, events, job interviews). In all cases, comfort and wearability were the top priorities for all of these consumers.

I wanted to prove the comfort factor through kinetic, energetic, implicit storytelling without ever using the word “comfortable.”

Still, comfort isn't the best way to sell comfort, since nobody chooses to buy or wear heels hoping that people will notice how comfortable they look. I wanted to prove the shoe's comfort factor with kinetic, energetic, implicit storytelling—without ever using the word "comfortable"—to make the case that a style-forward heel doesn't have to limit how the wearer goes about her day. Put differently, I wanted  to talk about these shoes by showing what the women who wear them can do.

 
 
I selected a fashionable urban neighborhood to counter the brand's shopping-mall image and to suggest a walking-intensive lifestyle without having to show a great deal of walking.

I selected a fashionable urban neighborhood to counter the brand's shopping-mall image and to suggest a walking-intensive lifestyle without having to show a great deal of walking.

Okay so I'm not an artist. But these stick-figures, who in real life would be two boys in their early teens, are happily playing basketball on the sidewalk. The lighting should suggest early evening—the end of the workday.

Okay so I'm not an artist. But these stick-figures, who in real life would be two boys in their early teens, are happily playing basketball on the sidewalk. The lighting should suggest early evening—the end of the workday.

From the right of the screen, our protagonist walks into the frame. She's a stylish woman representing the key demographic, wearing professional clothing and carrying a brief case. Without a word, she jumps, blocks a shot, and in a single motion places her briefcase on the sidewalk, retrieves the ball, and sinks a rad fadeaway jumper.

From the right of the screen, our protagonist walks into the frame. She's a stylish woman representing the key demographic, wearing professional clothing and carrying a brief case. Without a word, she jumps, blocks a shot, and in a single motion places her briefcase on the sidewalk, retrieves the ball, and sinks a rad fadeaway jumper.

She picks up her briefcase and trots easily up the stairs of a nearby building as we angle on her shoes. A voice-over announces the product: "The Total Motion Pointed-Toe Pump."

She picks up her briefcase and trots easily up the stairs of a nearby building as we angle on her shoes. A voice-over announces the product: "The Total Motion Pointed-Toe Pump."

We cut to the boys. The poor things are dejected, stunned, disheartened. Super-text reveals the brand and tagline. (Scene.)

We cut to the boys. The poor things are dejected, stunned, disheartened. Super-text reveals the brand and tagline. (Scene.)

 
 
 

How to Solve the problem:

Show the Story (But Not All of It)

The early-evening lighting, the after-school image of boys playing basketball, and the plot line intuited by a woman returning home in work-clothes all suggest all-day wearability without spending precious seconds showing the hour-to-hour activities of a workday. 

Make One Action Do the Work of Ten

If you can play basketball in heels, you can do anything in heels. Rather than a hackneyed montage of professional activities (getting out of a cab, giving a presentation, running up and down the halls of some gray-and-glass building), we get a playful, self-consciously silly image of a jump shot that invites us to presume that more likely activities can easily be accomplished with this product.

Be Playful to Work the Problem

The play on words in the tagline "Shock Absorbing" showcases a key feature of the product's comfort factor without undermining its hipness—and without using stuffy words like "comfortable," "wearable," or "practical."  The power of playfulness here is to acknowledge to younger buyers, who are predisposed to hate heels, that this brand understands that it's asking its buyers to wear shoes that are simultaneously preposterousness and necessary. But in this case the brand is in on the joke, because this shoe is different, better, and smarter.