Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
In the luxury fitness brand's first campaign for 2020, Equinox romanticizes vanity with an inverted take on the classic tale of Greek god Narcissus. The initial video is equal parts puzzling and hypnotic, depicting a buff man obsessing over his own reflection while a narrator explains how his self-worship transformed him into "a gift not just for him to treasure, but a gift that brought the whole world pleasure."
The tongue-in-cheek video — the first installment of a broader "Make Yourself a Gift to the World" campaign — illustrates the philosophy that fitness, a seemingly self-centered pursuit, is the first step toward positively impacting the world.
"This work is meant to know itself … so to do this and deliver the tone and provocation of the brand, we looked to present our subjects like gods to themselves. Bright, confident, other-worldly images with our protagonists as gifts to the world," Droga5 Group Creative Directors Toby Treyer-Evans and Laurie Howell told Marketing Dive via email. "There is no vanity, just a hope that, if we all make ourselves better, then we can all give more, share more, create more and bring that to people around us — but first it's all about you!"
Timed for the season of New Year's resolutions, the luxe fitness brand aims to reposition itself as a broader lifestyle company with a campaign that includes video, digital, print, social and out-of-home (OOH) elements. "Make Yourself a Gift to the World" was developed with creative agency Droga5, which was acquired by Accenture in April 2019, and will roll out three to four installments throughout the year.
The campaign is meant to be the "connective tissue" for Equinox's marketing efforts this year, which will continue to reflect today's ever-changing culture through an artful, creative lens, the fitness brand's CMO Seth Solomons told Marketing Dive.
A record of eccentric ads
Equinox has long pushed the envelope with risky or eccentric advertisements that at first glance don't appear to related to the high-end fitness brand. In 2016, Equinox and Wieden + Kennedy New York produced a campaign — "Commit to Something" — depicting a diamond-clad woman breastfeeding two babies in a fancy restaurant. In 2018, the brand created a "Commitment Collection" of odd items, such as cologne infused with DNA from a marathon runner. Last year's effort that launched in January depicted people embodying the five elements of life: love, water, spirit, movement and light. Each person in the chaotic spot meant to exemplify a slice of what Equinox stands for, from parkour athletes showing the power of movement to a couple kissing to illustrate the importance of relationships.
A solid base for provocative campaigns like Equinox's stems from the brand knowing itself inside out and diving confidently into challenging creative efforts, according to Treyer-Evans and Howell.
Landing on your feet
A key challenge in developing "Make Yourself a Gift to the World" was striking balance, Droga5's creative directors said. The spot aims to push people to play with the idea of self-obsession and selflessness, while keeping the tone playful. However, the video could easily be perceived as vain.
"As we looked to subvert tropes and play with ideas, we needed to push playfully enough and in a full-blooded way to give the core idea the legs it needed," Treyer-Evans and Howell said. "We were always mindful of the tone and that if we didn't push it enough, if we weren't playful or too high-minded, we could be left in no man's land and the audience might not feel the tension enough or get the wink."
"As we looked to subvert tropes and play with ideas, we needed to push playfully enough and in a full-blooded way to give the core idea the legs it needed."
Toby Treyer-Evans and Laurie Howell
Droga5, group creative directors
In a way, 2020's campaign comes off as more accessible than some in Equinox's past. Despite the over-the-top tone, the marketing team behind the message believe it holds some merit.
"After all, if we focus on ourselves a bit more, gives ourselves some more love and care and look to become the best versions we can be, who's to say the world around us doesn't get a little bit better too?" the Droga5 folks said.