Reebok’s Micky Pant

As vice president of global marketing, Micky Pant oversees the marketing of the Reebok brand globally. In the past year, he has overseen several successful marketing campaigns, including “Terry Tate, office linebacker,” and the creation of “Rbk”—a new urban collection featuring signature shoes for Jay-Z and 50 Cent.

Based on such campaigns as Terry Tate, Ad Week recently named Reebok Interactive Marketer of the Year, Footwear News selected Reebok as “Marketer of the Year” and the Cannes Film Festival choose the company for a Golden Lion.

Pant is the keynote speaker today at the iMedia Brand Summit in Coconut Point, Bonita Springs, Fla. Here’s a preview:

iMedia Connection: Wow, Interactive Marketer of the Year. That’s exciting, huh?

Pant: Yes, it is. Also, a number of online polls placed Terry Tate as the funniest Super Bowl ad ever, and that’s thrilling as well.

iMedia Connection: Speaking of Terry Tate, that campaign—as well as the WhoDunIt campaign for the rbk shoe line—were both huge campaigns that took on lives of their own. Did you anticipate their success?

Pant: Absolutely not. It was a complete accident, especially in the case of Terry Tate. There was a young film director, a budding director who while still a student at USC dreamt up a linebacker in the office. He produced a pilot with Hypnotic and they tried to sell it for two years. They finally came to us. We thought it was hysterically funny, but it was four minutes long and we couldn’t visualize how to use it. Plus, it had nothing to do with sneakers. But it was sufficiently funny, so we decided to take a gamble with it.

Hypnotic produced four films, four minutes each, that focused on four aspects of Terry’s life. We realized the only place to practically play them was on the Internet.

Then we had a Reebok worldwide conference in 2002 and, for a lark, I got Terry Tate and created a fictitious situation. When I got up to speak, my cell phone rang. While I was apologizing, Terry Tate ran up and clogged me. Now, we had rehearsed this the previous day, but on the actual day, Terry got carried away. He came rushing across the stage at me, I went over 360 degrees, landed on my neck, tore my jacket, and cut my hand. So my hand is bleeding all over my notes, and everyone is laughing hysterically. They all came up and said that was the funniest thing they’d ever seen. So we decided then to go on the Super Bowl in January.

We bought 60 seconds during Super Bowl 2003. The next day we got a call from USA Today saying that the spot did well in the people meter. Meanwhile, the Web site went crazy. It was clocking 20 downloads per second. To date, we’ve had more than 20 million downloads. And traffic increased seven times in our online store. We started moving merchandise like Terry Tate bobble head dolls and shirts. He became a phenomenon. For example, the Super Bowl spot played on January 29th. On the 31st, Terry and I closed the New York Stock Exchange. He went on the Today Show with Matt Lauer; he was on ESPN, CNN, MSNBC, Toast of the Town, etc.

There have also been all kinds of Terry Tate spoofs. On Kazaa, you can find 10 variations of those films. So there’s no telling how many downloads of these there have been, in addition to the 20 million just from our site.

iMedia Connection: How effective has Terry Tate been for branding? Often, people remember funny commercials but not the product that’s associated with them. This hasn’t been the case here, has it?

Pant: After the Super Bowl spot, 60 percent thought the advertiser was Reebok. For some reason, 30 percent thought it was McDonalds. But because you have to go to Reebok.com to see the films, there’s 100 percent brand recognition now. The Web site is the backbone of the campaign. The TV spot only ran once, yet everyone seems to know Terry Tate. We go to restaurants and people recognize him. That’s all from the Net.

So on Super Bowl Sunday this year, we launched a new Terry Tate movie online that we teased on MTV. Without the expense of a Super Bowl commercial, we still saw 250,000 downloads on the first day. If traffic keeps up, we’ll drop in a new film every few months.

iMedia Connection: Tell me about WhoDunIt. This was created after Terry Tate. Did you apply what you learned from that campaign to this one?

Pant: Yes. We were launching a new collection of shoes, Above the Rim, which are lightweight sneakers for people who like to play above the rim, leap across in the air, and so on. So we created a game called WhoDunIt. We ran two or three TV commercials that played like a fictitious crime show. We showed a line on the ground like there was a dead body, we had two detectives, and provided clues, like the tread pattern from a shoe, a wrist band, etc. Kids had to go online to register to guess which of four players was responsible. We kept it going for two or three months. It resulted in the fastest rate of sell through we’ve ever had. Kids printed out a trend pattern from the site, went to stores to compare it and shoes sold through. The interest level was tremendous and the Web site was very active.

Just like Terry Tate, the whole action took place on the Web site. We used TV simply to lead people there.

iMedia Connection: So how do you determine your media mix?

Pant: We use TV not to communicate a message but to direct traffic to the Web site and create promotions online. That creates a multiplier effect beyond reckoning.

We’re getting disillusioned with TV. Unless something is very entertaining, it doesn’t work. You can’t do serious messaging—we saw that Sunday with Gillette. If you can combine TV and the Internet, creating something entertaining on TV that links to a promotion online, that’s a great combo because broadcast still reaches the maximum number of people for singular messaging, but you can’t go deep. With Terry Tate, we have more than 20 minutes of film in total. That provides a deep interaction with the brand, but you can’t use TV to deliver it.

iMedia Connection: What can’t online do, despite what everyone would like to believe?

Pant: It’s beginning to get very powerful. There has always been the question of whether it can reach enough people, but we’ve been using it a lot. We’re enlisting Beyond Interactive to place a bunch of ads, and all of that does draw traffic. And the Internet is still a good value for the money. Look at the price of a Super Bowl ad. Give that money to an Internet guy and see how much you can get.

Also, full-motion video works very well now. It’s almost as good as watching something on TV. You can get the full impact.

The only thing is that people on the Web are very discerning. They’re very reluctant to product messaging and have the ability to cut through clutter. That is a factor. How do you get them to look or listen? That’s where creative really comes in.

iMedia Connection: What one thing would you like agencies to “get” about your needs and your business? Or, what one thing would make the client/agency relationship better?

Pant: They complain justifiably that they don’t get images in time. We have a lot of images of athletes, products and so on that we use in multiple formats. Agencies feel they don’t know what’s going on. We’ve invested a ton of money in an image database but we still need to improve the process. How you integrate is a key question.

Also, part of the reason for the success of WhoDunIt was because it was conceived as an Internet initiative with TV supporting it. That rarely happens, and we need to get agencies doing more of that going forward. Agencies tend to ride on the coattails of other areas of advertising.

iMedia Connection: What’s the next big thing online?

Pant: I’m trying to work with recording artists to debut their songs on our Web site. I’m hoping we can make that happen.

Also, running long content. For example, we have a lot of expertise on sports, on how to play better, train, lose weight, etc. We have a lot of programming that we used to sell on videos and DVDs with modest success. We need to make those available online. Much of any companies’ intellectual property can be used online. There has been an emphasis on gimmicks and attention grabbing. We need to shift from that and provide serious, great content. We have Reebok University, which is an internal initiative in which we work with exercise physiologists when designing shoes, and we have developed some great programming on subjects such as injury prevention, rehabilitation and so on. We have a big program around Shaq when he was rehabilitating his stomach muscles. We could easily put that online. Consumers would love that stuff. I also thought it would be great to put Web cams in our factories in China. We pride ourselves on our operations and people would like to see how the shoes are made. There just has been a lack of application. But I can envision all of this type of content coming online.

 

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