Ad Breakdown: Reebok’s “Postmen”

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Lewis Folkard

Suffolk-based conversion copywriter.

Reebok Postmen Ad

Did you know that 7 postmen and women are attacked by dogs every day in the UK (according to Royal Mail – and this article)?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t either… until I started looking for Postman gifs this morning.

I thought it was just something overplayed and dramatised in movies. But turns out it’s real.

Heck, look at Google’s search suggestions…

“How can I get my dog to stop chasing the postman?”
“What happens if my dog bites the postman?”
“Why does my dog hate the postman so much?”

That sounds very real!

Anyway, had our postal folk seen this ad from Reebok UK, they might see the funny side too.

Here it is…

“The Edge” by Reebok

I found this ad in the 1990 D&AD Annual, and immediately it made me smile. 

It was written by Jane Garland and art directed by Charles Inge during their time at Lowe Howard-Spink

Whoever named these trainers the “The Edge” (or “Edge”?) deserves a medal. 

Not for the cliché, getting the ‘edge’ over someone in a racey kinda way (which I’m sure was more the intention), but for the creative opportunities it opens up. (I.e. running away from dogs)

Of course, the ad creatives deserve just as much credit because they spotted the potential and made the connection, creating what we’re looking at now. 

The devil is in the details

Okay, so what makes this ad more enjoyable than the other drivel out there?

Well, first, it’s funny. At least stereotypically. 

And second, it makes you think. 

There’s a penny that needs to drop for this ad to make sense. And it lies within the details. (AKA the non-torn-up trousers)

Naturally, ads deliver ‘aha’ moments in different ways. And today’s ad does so via an “odd one out”. 

3 out of 4 postmen look sad and tired. One does not. 

…and he’s wearing Reeboks.

(It’s almost a reverse of Fisher-Price’s “Anti-Slip Roller Skates” – which you can find here.)

Now, ads don’t really work when they spoon-feed the message and tell the reader how to feel. There’s no fun or trust there – for the creatives or the audience.

By this, I mean we need to trust that our audience will “get” the ad – and that our ad elements will hold them long enough to do so.

And a sprinkling of fun helps charm the reader and nudge their thinking along.

Penny drops build brands

In fact, because the reader has to do a bit of thinking, they donate a little bit of themself to the communication. In some sense, they take ownership of the feeling the ad creates.

And this is very important because those generated feelings transfer onto the brand. The next time Reebok come to mind, the reader will have a slightly more emotional connection to them.

Over time, and with more ads, these connections deepen. And in a roundabout way, this is how you build a brand.

In our case here, the feelings are positive and playful. And when people feel that way, they’re more likely to buy. 

And that’s your lot.

Key Takeaway: Invite your reader to close the loop and self-create positive, playful emotions. And trust that they’ll be able to.

Reebok’s award-winning ad

Okay, so as great as this ad is, Reebok had another ad from 1990 that won an award (I don’t think this one did). 

I’d love to share it with you. But I can’t… 

It went out to my newsletter subscribers on 20th April. So you’ve missed it.

If you don’t want to miss other ads (and insights) in the future, I suggest you sign up for my newsletter. 

There’s no spam. Or salesy-shite.

Just an email every two weeks about an ad I like. 

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See you there.

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