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“Nike” Ad Causes Stir

“Nike” Ad Causes Stir


A Nike print ad making the rounds on the Web is causing a stir for its homophobic copy -- except it's not a Nike-commissioned ad. It's part of a student project for CMYK Magazine.

A Nike print ad making the rounds on the Web this week is causing a stir for its homophobic copy, which reads, "The only thing worse than going to the ballet is going to the ballet to see your son."

But unlike previous ads that raised eyebrows among gays for their homophobic content -- a la that Snickers Super Bowl ad that featured two men appalled when they accidentally kiss after eating through the candy bar from opposite ends -- this ad wasn't commissioned by Nike.

In fact, Nike says the company didn't even know about the ad until it popped up on the Web.

The Nike ad in question ran in CMYK Magazine, a publication distributed quarterly to advertising and design professionals, as part of a quarterly student ad design competition.

Students Nicolas Schmidt-Fitzner and Tara Lawall created the mock-up under instructors Niklas Fing-Rupp and Jan Rexhausen. They attend one of the Miami Ad School's satellite locations in Hamburg, Germany.

The ad was selected by a "leading professional" in the advertising industry as one of the best ads submitted for the quarter. Student projects in areas of art direction,copywriting, design, illustration, and photography appear in each issue of the magazine.

CMYK publisher Curtis Clarkson said he was first contacted last week via e-mail with a complaint about the ad. That was quickly followed by postings on blogs and a call from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Clarkson responded with a letter to GLAAD posted on the organization's blog, apologizing to anyone "who takes personal offense by the publishing of this class assignment."

"In retrospect, I'm not surprised [by the response] -- but I see so much student work that uses risque, biting humor," Clarkson told in an exclusive interview. "Not all the time, but with sports clients and energy drinks ... We scrutinize the work to a degree, but we never censor it because we figure, this is what the judge picked; we have to go by their word."

Clarkson says he personally might not have selected the ad, but he also says he took the ad in a different way, thinking "they're trying to pit macho sports against ballet, trying to get out the point that Nike is for hard-core sports."

He says that when he received the first e-mail, he thought the sender was "kind of equating homosexuality with ballet dancers. There are a lot of straight ballet dancers, so I didn't see it that way."

After more calls and blog posts started coming his way, he says he took a harder look at the ad and quickly understood what all the fuss was about.

Because the magazine is distributed to mostly industry professionals who are familiar with what CMYK is, Clarkson says the fact that the ad was reprinted on the Web out of context made people think Nike had commissioned the ad.

In addition to writing a letter to GLAAD, Clarkson says he reached out to Nike representatives who he says were "very gracious." He wrote a letter to Nike explaining the magazine's reasoning behind selecting the ad.

"This is quite a lesson -- and it certainly was a humbling experience," Clarkson says. "I understand the frustrations."

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