Stab's Picks: The Ten Best Surf Ads Of 2016
Because 2017's a brave new world.
It’s fashionable to call 2016 a tough year. The surf industry has been in a struggle with retail facing resulting in its most trying condition since the global financial crisis. The halcyon days of the early 2000’s are dusted, and the industry is forced to grapple with the new normal. This year we’ve seen an unprecedented number of surfers without major sponsors, including many world tour players with white noses for lease. In our business of media, the word advertising was left behind at the end of 2015. It was deemed dirty and it was replaced by “branded content” or “storytelling”, which means a brand’s message can be loosely weaved into a story in a more subtle way to sell. But, it’s all marketing and whether it’s “native” or that it “needs to show a clear path to ROI”, we are fond of good advertising. Sure, it certainly keeps the lights on for us as a business, but it also creates discipline. Advertising slots are generally small and designed for finite windows. It’s where the best thinkers shine. 365 days ends in a lot of ads, here's what stood out to us this year.
10. Volcom’s Welcome to Water (you can view it above).
The new sound of the old stone connects in Welcome to Water. Some brands evolve and some are so petrified of changing anything from their roots and become mere caretakers of the original blueprint. Welcome to Water is a new direction Volcom have taken to drive us into the real world and away from our digital screens.
And, as tough as it is, the narration does a good job in articulating the ethereal nature of what we do. It's authenticity without using the heinous word.
9. Patagonia’s 100% for the planet.
Creativity comes in many ways and that ole giving spirit rarely fails but giving back to the planet on a day of the world’s most rampant consumerism? Genius. Patagonia’s 1% for the planet ethos turned to 100% for the planet for Black Friday raised $10m and headlines across the world. While it doesn’t fit easily into an ad per se, nothing's more creative than donating all sales proceeds to nonprofits working on the frontline to protect our air, water and soil for future generations. It was coined a “fundraiser for the earth,” which is something we all can get behind. Bravo, Big P.
8. Vissla’s North Seas wetsuit.
Since all the world’s wetsuits are made under the one roof, each year varying new technologies and breakthroughs are quite universal between surf companies. And, wetsuit campaigns typically follow the formula of warmth, flexibility, quirky tech name fabrication and a big-name athlete. Curiously, in over 40 years of selling wetsuits, this is the first time we’ve been officially introduced to the inventor of neoprene and the world’s first wetsuit, Californian physicist Hugh Bradner. It’s this little-known fact and Wes Anderson-inspired approach to wetsuits that sends Vissla into the best ads of the year list.
7. Life’s Better in Boardshorts.
You'd be familiar with the creative work of Insight founder Steve Gorrow. Remember the old Insight campaigns that featured underwater scenes with surf action atop the surface? Or foreground art installations with surf action behind? You may not know this, but Steve is no longer at Insight and is now the creative director at Billabong. He's quartered his energy into the Life’s Better in Boardshorts campaign along with Kai Neville in the video department. You no doubt have seen during the Pipe Masters coverage the play on words with Life’s Short and some more personality into the ads. Billabong has long been geared towards high-octane surf performance, but this recent campaign loosens up a little. Look out for Steve’s work with Billabong and a collection he has pulled together with Warhol Foundation set for release in the new year. Interestingly, Andy Warhol has a piece of artwork that reads: I came out of the womb on a surfboard.
6. Former’s entry to the world.
Breaking new ground is something we adore about Dane. The first sign of his new brand was perhaps the least strategic and best soft launch of all time. There was no website landing page, Instagram handle, Facebook page nor a tee shirt on the market. At the tail-end of Dane Reynolds’ phenomenal Chapter 11, he gave us the first glimpse at Former. His performance, and ability to tell his story, surpassed all expectation in this film and it was the perfect time to introduce the next tier of his career. The new apparel brand is the much-talked about label owned by Dane, skater Austyn Gillette and Craig Anderson. The Warren Smith-directed piece was the first taste of the brand's track. The question was, is the brand going to be a clean surf version of on-fire skate brand Bianca Chandon? Or a throwback to an Orange County 80's skate label? Dane has a long history with his projects requiring narrative and meaning. This chaotic and two-toned intro leaves us with more questions than answers, but most importantly leaves us wanting more. And, for those labelling us as Reynolds groupies and getting behind whatever he’s involved in... well, we’re guilty as charged.
5. WSL series.
After the ASP had become the WSL, they took a while to find their feet. Remember last year at Snapper when in a post-heat Gabby unloaded on Micro, and the mic was torn from his mouth. Or when Freddy approached the infamous Freddy’s rock, and commentators touched on the subject with, “Freddie Patacchia, just a little rail slide on the inside.” It was an all-new world of professionalism, and everyone from viewers to commentators stirred in noticeable discomfort. Then some fresh faces were shown the door (think Pat Parnell and Todd Kline), and today the webcast's recipe has been seasoned into something better.
The WSL copped heat for their "you can’t script this" campaign. Naturally, a trove of online chatter stated that the whole dance was scripted. They then released their jersey campaign, which is a bit cringeworthy. However they've been flying off the shelves at events, so it's working. But their series of self-deprecating humour was the ideal antidote to the backlash of online criticism, touching everything from scoring, chairing and Hawaii being a state of the US to Seabass and the 14 Twinkies resulting in his jersey number.
4. Hurley JJF3.
When you lead, you’re mimicked. It’s what paradigm shifters do and is regarded as the highest form of flattery. Hurley, after its acquisition by Nike had a substantial influence on the surf market. When they shifted their focus on a single category opposed to jumping from boardshorts to denim to wetsuits, a lot of other brands followed. But it wasn’t just the discipline in narrow marketing strategy; there was more. Before Hurley, surfers were surfers and not athletes. And they're single-handedly responsible for every surf marketing manager referring to their surfers as athletes. It was this style of Nike thinking that seeped into everything Hurley did. Fast forward to 2016 and Hurley have loosened their “tech tech tech!!!” callouts and simplified into this new “Pretty Sick” boardshort ad that is equal parts Hurley as it is John John. And, shout out to the past two world champs for doing it their own way. Adriano De Souza and John Florence are surely the only two surfers in the world who still wear boardshorts over their knee!
3. Mongrel Mike by Quiksilver.
This ad connected more with an Australian audience than with our US counterparts. In a broad, foggy comparison, this ad is the surf equivalent of the Trump victory or Brexit vote–a backlash to the present system. Directed by Ryan Heywood, it’s a tongue-in-cheek ode to Mad Max featuring Mikey Wright, who does meth chic better than any surfer in the world right now. Hoyo is a brilliant and natural inclusion and plays a caricatured version of himself with aplomb. And in this politically correct world, we can use some light-hearted fun. It has gathered quite a lot of fanfare for a pair of boardshorts, of which Stab collaborated with Quiksilver on. Over 12 months in the making, this simple pair of well-made black boardshorts are finally ready for the market. We spent time getting the detail just right. We ditched the drawstring for a button fly, inserted neoprene side panels and cut the length right above the knee. We’re proud of these.
2. Dane Reynolds + PAM for Vans.
You know about Pam Reynolds, the bulldog and Instagram star of Dane Reynolds and his girl Courtney. @Pamlovesferrariboyz has been on the Today Show and has over 50k followers on IG. It was a seamless fit for the Courtney-directed shoot of Dane and PAM in Vans SK8 hi's, which was later re-appropriated to a wall in Williamsburg, NY. The scenes Courtney gets PAM in are nothing short of fascinating... you a follower yet?
1. Rhythm’s Australiana.
We’re all guilty of watching that motorcycle tear down that Chopes face, but it’s not always a big budget production that grabs our attention. What you won’t believe is that one of the most watched films on Stab’s Facebook this year is this Australiana clip of Asher Pacey with graphics by Nanda Ormond. Asher Pacey is one of those surfers who connects with the Stab reader, and he placed far higher in our reader survey than his big-monied rivals. The beauty of this clip is the simplicity of the animation and soundtrack, not to mention the fine surfing from Mr Pacey. There is no algorithm for its success. But it's surely a combination of surf talent, hi-fi performance or wave perfection and under the radar appeal also translated for Rhythm commercially. The small and limited Australiana capsule was fast to sell through.