In December I was working at 180 in Amsterdam. On my way to the loo someone looked at me queerly, so I stopped.
‘What the fuck are those?’ he asked.
‘What?’ I replied.
Reader, I was wearing a rather fetching pair of the reissued Jordan 4s (I couldn’t afford them when they first came out), made by Nike. I learned that day that it is strictly verboten to wear Nikes in 180. Adidas is their founding client, the company without which the agency would not have been able to exist, and the people of 180 feel they owe them the courtesy of not wearing the products of their greatest competitor.
Now, I’m not a sneaker brand loyalist, so I went back to London for Christmas and came back in January with a rather fetching pair of Adidas Nizzas with a comic book design.
They were met with delighted approval by at least some of my 180 colleagues.
Fast forward to earlier this month and I am freelancing at Wieden and Kennedy in London. Without thinking I wore my Nizzas, which were thankfully obscured by my long jeans. I told a W&K colleague the 180 story and showed her my shoes. Like the 180 fellow of December, she was shocked. It is equally verboten to wear Adidas at W&K for the same reason. There you may wear Nike, Umbro, Converse and (I’d guess) anything without obvious branding. It’s even in the welcome handbook (I wasn’t given this) and is kindly enforced with a healthy discount for W&K employees at Niketown.
Reader, I did not wear Adidas to W&K again.
This is, I suppose, living the brand, and it makes perfect sense, especially when the clients come round.
But there are more extreme examples. I heard tell of a USA BBDO employee who insisted his hotel minibar was emptied of Coca-Cola and filled with Pepsi, one of their biggest accounts. And then there was the Ballantines whisky client who would not be seen drinking anything else in public – even water (I bet she was fun to be around).
If you can convince a client that you believe in their brand, the next logical step must be your everyday use of it.
I just pity the poor bastard with the Coloplast colostomy bag account.