WORDS: JORDAN WHITE '19
Like many others without AdBlock, every other song I listen to on YouTube is interrupted by a commercial. Last week, the only ad my phone would run was for Margot vs. Lily, the new Nike Original Series. My visceral reaction to this idea was that it was really dumb: corny, corporate pandering to the Internet generation; obvious attempt to get more women to buy Nike. I have not given up this conviction, but I decided to give it a try. Nike is up against a lot in their struggle to make it a genuinely watchable webshow, and a viable new means of bringing subconscious advertising into everyday life.
The show is centered around two adopted sisters. Lily is a YouTube fitness guru with more fans than friends, and Margot spends her time at hip cocktail parties after being fired from her job running the Twitter for an accounting firm. The premise of the show is based on a dare made in the first episode. Jealous of each other's opposing lifestyles, the sisters establish a competition: can Lily make three whole friends before Margot can start her own fitness channel and earn one thousand subscribers?
Both are the type of figure that women are expected to relate to in today’s culture, and both are in head-to-toe Nike. I hate throwing the word genius around the way loud bros use “Kanye is a genius” to shut down any criticism, but that’s fucking genius. Nike is completely capitalizing on everything that we value in pop culture today: witty female leads with jobs in social media, nice clothes, Brooklyn for some reason, and self-awareness. The show avoids criticism by being cognizant of what it is: a long, scripted, eight-part ad. It attempts to subliminally convince us that a Nike universe is accessible by showing us that it already exists—not just among the streetwear crowd and the single moms at Equinox, but among the every day Broad City types that are revolutionizing the way women are represented in pop culture. There could have been a Nike x Netflix collaboration, or a series of shorter TV commercials, but in an age that glamorizes social anxiety and self-consciousness, the fact that they released it on their own website with a “Shop the Collection” link right under the videoplayer is refreshing in its overtness. Margot vs. Lily could only ever exist right now.
Nike has created an entire world in their show, completely revolutionizing product placement. The gear is so ubiquitous that the word "Nike" isn't even uttered once. Going beyond the idea of the obviously-placed flashy brand item, this world is so identical to our own that we almost don’t notice that the protagonists’ dorky dad is wearing flyknits. Evidently, this world goes beyond the confines of the show itself—there is an accompanying hashtag which will lead viewers to vlogs that highlight specific workouts from the show. If that doesn’t satisfy your fix, viewers can also subscribe to a weekly newsletter that will provide fitness tips, product deals, and sneak previews of each Margot vs. Lily episode before it officially airs.
Ads have always had to adjust to the changing means of entertainment consumption. Now that people have caught on to the fact that Google tracks your searches, we have learned to read web browsers without being distracted by flashy photos of things they know we want to buy. Instead of infiltrating the periphery of our shows and videos, Nike is moving toward controlling the entertainment itself.
The show has only aired one of eight episodes, and if the creators did it right, NikeWomen sales will raise with the release of each one. Is this the new face of advertising? Will Adidas have their own Key & Peele in the works? There’s no concrete way of knowing yet, but in the words of my brother—a die hard sportswear fan who finds it ‘dope’ that Wesleyan makes Under Armour gear—“this is fucking groundbreaking.”