Tensions are running high on day two of protests and riots across America in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of murderous police.
The protests come as states across the country are slowly opening up as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, making 2020 one of the worst years in recent memory. And it's not even June.
Two brands have already created ads in response to the cultural moment and to capitalize on it: Nike and Beats by Dre.
Both ads are in black and white, which was probably the most expedient way to kick out a timely ad during a pandemic. From a conceptual standpoint, it seems incredibly obvious, even trite.
Nike plays off its "Just do it," tagline by starting a bunch of lines with "Don't..." and then ends with a paraphrase of Gandhi's "be the change you want to see in the world," with "Let's all be part of the change." Considering Nike won at Cannes for ripping of Apple's Think Different, it shouldn't be that much of a surprise.
Speaking strictly from an advertising standpoint this is cheap, lazy, self-serving in the sense that it is more self-referential to its own tagline than really caring about what is happening. It is also an opportunistic way to jump on the moment. It puts the capitalize in capitalism and offers up no solution and makes no promises either.
What's worse is the tone is accusatory. As if anyone watching the ad was the cop standing on George Floyd's neck.
Beats by Dre on the other hand, is much less sententious and way more effective. It also offers up a brave note of hope which Nike is severely lacking.
Set on black and white just like Nike, the post doesn't rely on childish repetition to get its point across (I'm surprised Nike's ad wasn't in all capswith hand clap emojis) but reminds everyone what the company was built on, and what it continues to stand for:
Beats by Dre was founded by and named after a black man who came to prominence while speaking unapologetically about the importance of protecting black lives. Here we are, three decades later, speaking out about the same exact issue.
This is a human crisis that requires the voice and action of all people, whether you are personally impacted or not.
Since the beginning, Beats has been embraced by black communities across all America. We know those communities are hurting-- and we all should be. We stand in steadfast solidarity with black people as well as all those who are committed to freedom and justice.
And we, too, will do more.
It is unclear what Beats by Dre will do in this area if anything. Let's hope it's something more than just making ads. Talk is cheap, and consumers aren't stupid. If neither brand does something meaningful, then they both deserve to be scorned.
In the meantime, if you are actually committed to freedom and justice and want to make a difference right now, I have a suggestion. Instead of buying either Nike or Beats by Dre right now, consider donating the same money you would have to the official George Floyd memorial fund, as organized by his mother Philonise.