Venom

Brand: 
Reebok
Business Category: 
Sneakers/Shoes
Agency: 
Berlin Cameron & Partners

A spoof about survivor skills and two comic guys, Nate and Brian, who clumsily try to enjoy the great outdoors. Nate, the larger of the two, frequently offers bad advice and suggests that they stray from the hiking trail they're on.

Brian immediately gets bitten on his calf by a snake and Nate says, "Hunker down, man, it's gonna be fine. I saw this thing on a survival show once."

Nate immediately bends down to suck the poison out, and does so with lots of squeaking sounds. Brian's eyes roll back in his head and he grunts and groans -- presumably from the pain. Meanwhile, a woman casually jogs by and, from her point of view, it looks like they're enjoying oral sex together. She looks back barely with surprise.

Brian notices her and pushes his friend to the ground (with a comic bang sound), so she doesn't get the wrong idea. He adopts a macho stance and gives her a friendly "hey."

The announcer then says, "Want better advice? Get Reebok with DMX technology at (shoe retailer) Finish Line. Shoes to absorb the shock." The shock of the first TV ad to simulate male-male oral sex!

Even though traditional American TV networks decline condom advertising, the Reebok spot known as "Venom" made it to air on CBS. Another in the campaign did not. In "Thirsty," Nate and Brian wash up on a desert island and think they have no fresh water, so Nate suggests they drink their urine -- and they do.

Without a bit of irony, Ewen Cameron, a principal at the New York ad agency that created the campaign, Berlin Cameron & Partners, said, "For some reason, CBS wouldn't air (the urine ad). These things are so arbitrary. Why is 'Venom' okay and the other isn't? I don't know." Indeed, participants on "Survivor" once ate rats and mealworms for food, so what's a little body fluid?

Cameron explained that CBS's only comment about "Venom" was that it be clear that it was a snakebite. "The viewer is not fooled by what's going on -- the joke is about the runner and her perspective as she goes by. The filthy ideas happen in your imagination."

In another commercial, the pair jumps into a swamp and as they get out, Brian -- who always panics -- is covered in leaches. He tears off his clothes, down to his wet underwear, and Nate starts ripping the leeches off of Brian. But when they discover the leaches are also on Brian's penis, his buddy decides that's too much too much to help with, and walks away saying "You're on your own." At that moment, a woman (a former "Survivor" member) jogs by and says, "Loser."

Some may recognize that storyline from the 1986 film "Stand By Me," an intended reference for viewers.

The edgy campaign appropriately ran during CBS's wildly successful "Survivor" series, about a group of real people who volunteer to be on a "deserted" island and fight to be the last one remaining after 33 days to win $1 million from the network.

As part of its sponsorship, Reebok outfitted all the survivors with sneakers/apparel and had access to those from the show who were kicked off. The women who run by in the commercials were former "survivors" from the show.

The campaign polarized ad viewers, according to the USA Today Ad Track Index. It found the spots scored best with younger consumers: 25% of consumers ages 25-29 like them "a lot." The ads generated one of the highest "dislike" scores of the year: 29% disliked them vs. the Ad Track average of 13%. Why? Because 62% of consumers 65 and over disliked them. Yet, the ads scored highest in effectiveness: 22% of consumers think they're "very effective," over the Ad Track average of 24%.

Video or Print Ad: 
Video Ad
Country: 
http://s3.amazonaws.com/commercialcloset/VideoLibrary/299reebokvenomBIG.flv
Video Thumbnail: