Run with the crowd: What can we learn from Eugen Merher’s Adidas advert?

Jeffrey Lee, global marketing director at video production crowdsourcing platform, Userfarm, discusses the virtues of working to a brief.

So you’ve got a million dollar idea…what next?

Create the film and take a chance or find a project on a crowdsourcing platform like Userfarm, where you could adapt your short to one of the hundreds of top global brands looking for talent like yours?

Cautionary tale

There is a cautionary tale – in some ways – of coming up with your own theme and then running with it (literally in this case).

Each brand has people who identify with it; love it even. For each individual that will mean something different and is also the reason crowdsourcing can be such an exhilarating exercise for all concerned.

But what if the director goes it alone and creates a film with no platform, no brief and no pot of gold at the end?

It’s a gamble, plain and simple. But if you make something that takes off, you might just have won the lottery.

Remember, top brands are like rock bands and they are always having approaches from people who have got a killer song and want them to listen to their demo, so cutting through the layers of marketing (not to mention cynicism) is difficult at best.

That’s not to say if your production is that good, it won’t gain exposure and show off your skills.

Case in point. A German student director named Eugen Merher elected to go it alone and produce an ad for Adidas.

The story concerns an ageing former marathon runner, imprisoned in a secure retirement home that resembles something from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Upon stumbling across a classic pair of old Adidas running shoes, his spirits are lifted and his vision is clear – he wants to run again and live his life.

Unfortunately, each time he dresses to go running, he is repelled by nursing staff (there’s a good Nurse Ratchet included) and each time, his spirits sink.

Finally, the staff take his trainers of him and lock them away.

Fearing his dream is over, the other patients appear at his door later with his running vest and trainers.

Next we see him run past dozens of other patients cheering and waving and as he makes it to the exit, this time, they hold back the nursing staff and he at last escapes and runs into the countryside, liberated.

It’s very well made, well scripted and well-acted. But Adidas weren’t interested.

“We tried sending it to their communications department but they didn’t really react,” said Merher, a 26-year-old student at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. But while Adidas didn’t take the bait, the rest of the advertising world did.

“At first I had Nike in my mind,” he admitted, revealing some of the background behind ‘Break Free’.

“Well, technically first I had the story of an old man breaking out of a retirement home and I was looking for a shoe brand that would fit, so I checked out some forums online and dug into which brands represented marathon and Olympic runners.

“I wanted it to be based in the 70s and I found that Nike didn’t have the real marathon outfits back then, also Adidas is more of a traditional German brand and they were also involved in the Olympics at the time too so they were the best fit out of all the shoe brands.

“I posted it and nothing much happened – a few German magazines wrote about it and I didn’t expect much more.

“Then about one week ago when I was on my way to my cousin’s wedding I saw that Ads of the World posted it online and then suddenly I found on Facebook that lots of French pages had uploaded it as an official Adidas ad – it received 50,000 views and hundreds of comments and shares and I was like: ‘What’s going on? What the hell?'”

Merher has since been contacted by some of the world’s most prestigious marketing agencies and Adidas has also finally made contact.

The moral of the story?

Most times, it’s better to respond to a brand’s brief via crowdsourcing because you’re actually producing something they are looking for.

If your film is good, it will find an audience somehow, but if it’s not the audience you intended, you’ve not entirely achieved your goal. Merher will perhaps argue otherwise.

Our advice? Stick with the crowd. There really is safety in numbers.

Watch the video here.

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