On Twitter? Follow runners? If you can answer yes to both these questions then you probably know about the latest campaign from ASICS. A collaboration with Elite Model Look, an international modelling competition, it features pale, ethereally pretty and very young models. It’s a bit like watching a school PE class but with better kit and less arguing. Surrounding the images is rhetoric about how Elite models lead active healthy lives, and they’re here to encourage us to do the same.
As I tweeted a few days ago, nothing about this campaign is good. OK, it’s quite nicely shot. But that’s all, and really that’s assumed. Honestly, I’m not really sure where to start picking it all apart. My overarching thought is that the campaign is dull and irrelevant. Companies have always used models in campaigns. They always will. Sometimes you just need a pro to get something done. But typically these models will be athletic. They will look like they’ve hit puberty and workout. Like they might actually run. This lot don’t. As I said, it’s like looking at a bunch of pre-teens in their gym class. Which is confusing and just doesn’t seem to align with ASICS’ inherently athletic branding. I can’t see who the campaign is designed to connect with. But then maybe it’s not meant to connect with anyone? The fast thumbs and disgruntled voices of the running community has got people talking about ASICS. True it’s negative press, yes some people might vote with their feet, but most wont.
Beyond being dull and irrelevant, the models in this campaign really are very young. Very very young. So much of the media revolves around youth, but this campaign feels like more or a stretch than normal, and there’s something really uncomfortable about that. Youth is already fetishised in the media, often to the exclusion of diversity, but this pushes the boundary even further than normal.
Looking past their youth, the models in this campaign all look eerily similar. Maybe it’s all the cheekbone. Most likely it’s the dominance of white skin and long sleek hair. There’s the odd exception, but the bodies featured conform to each other so closely it’s hard to see. Campaigns featuring predominantly young, white, thin people simply help perpetuate myths about cosmetic ideals. Not only is this boring (can you see a theme here?!), but also harmful. As long as society continues to preference this narrow profile as the cosmetic ideal people will continue to believe that movement isn’t for them. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see.
And then there’s the train tracks…but I’ll leave that to Twitter to discuss.
Have you seen this campaign? What are your thoughts?