Trainers take on the trains

PETER YORK ON ADS: NO 283: NIKE
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The Independent Culture
I've seen a Nike ad I really like. It's pushed my buttons, lifted my skirt, rung my bell, all that. This is a problem because if there's one thing I'm against in the world, it's trainers, and, for a supplementary, I hate most of the Nike "just do it" advertising. Just do what? It's very well-made and very effective but I've always thought of it as that kind of religiose "street-smart" American new generation branding that's worse than the old kind.

Certainly I couldn't stand the basketball stuff, and the football fantasies left me cold - though you had to admire the technique. But now they've done a little London film for the opening of the New Nike Town Store in Oxford Circus and they've got under my guard by setting it so recognisably in some key City locations, and by using the Anti Nowhere League's late- punk sarky cover version of Ralph McTell's soppy "Streets of London". It's a brilliant choice because it evokes 30 years of London thinking - a little bit Clash, a little bit Jam, a little bit Old Mod - very quickly. The combination of location and music is horribly convincing.

Of course it involves people just doing it; in this case doing one of those mass runs against the Tube you're always seeing City men do for charity. Out of the Tube train they stream, these boys and girls, through the winding tunnel to surface at Bank (Bank, precisely the sort of location they'd have set a go-go heist story in 1969). And on through the City, via St Paul's Churchyard - at a lick, some of them grinning madly - then across ugly Paternoster Square (exactly the sort of building John Savage would have used in one of his '77 montages) and alongside the deep train cutting by Farringdon.

This is all my London. At one point - they're somewhere in the King's Cross hinterland - they go past a group of timber huts, one with a small gnomic poster saying "Dissent" (how the creatives must have enjoyed that little one). And then out they pour down the St Pancras steps into the Tube entrance and on to the escalators. Some manage to throw themselves through the train doors just as it moves off. Some are left behind.

"London Town meets Nike Town 17.7.99" is the message - with a swoosh - suggesting some sort of equivalence. And Nike Town, of course, is the dernier cri in American corporate flagship theme-parkery, as deeply Babylonian as Bond Street in 1999.

Coincidentally, the current issue of American Harper's has an interesting piece on American advertising that describes how Nike gets inside a variety of cultures and, as Julie Burchill put it, about how the use of music in commercials "mugs their memories".

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