Columbia Sportswear Pushes Some More Buttons

Columbia Sports wear Co. maintains its sarcastic, occasionally racy approach to advertising in a new campaign.

The work is from Borders Perrin Nor rander in Portland, Ore., which has worked with the crosstown client for 25 years. Spending through the end of the year is estimated at $10 million.

Five print ads each focus on a single product. In the lower left of each is a black-and-white picture of Columbia’s stern-looking chairman, Gert Boyle, who has been a staple of the company’s ads since 1984.

“She embodies everything the brand is about—uncompromising quality, toughness,” said BPN director of client services Jack Peterson.

An ad for the Boundary Peak Parka includes the headline, “There’s nothing motherly about mother nature. Except maybe her big mountainous breasts.” Boyle’s comment reads: “I’ve got hot flashes to keep me warm. You’ll need something that zips.”

The Jr. Fire Ridge Parka ad reads: “You can freeze your sperm. You can freeze your embryos. But last we checked it was still illegal to freeze your children.” Boyle weighs in: “Early signs of hypothermia include poor coordination and confusion. Two things best saved for puberty.”

Peterson admits the client’s ads generate “a lot of mail.” But he said BPN research since 1997 has indicated a 96 percent approval rating for the work, which helps Columbia stand out from larger spenders like Nike. “It’s always been a Columbia trademark to be a sharper nail rather than a heavier hammer,” he said.

The campaign also includes five TV spots tagged, “Tested tough,” which break in November. In one, “Ma Boyle” drives a Zamboni around a hockey rink while her son, com pany president and CEO Tim Boyle, is seen under the ice, breathing through a straw. Another ad has Tim sitting in a lawn chair as Ma Boyle drives by in a plow and buries him in snow.

The print ads are running in Men’s Health, People, Rolling Stone and Skiing. TV will air primarily in the northern U.S., on cable and spot TV. Outdoor ads are also in the mix.