Athletes Clear Hurdles in JWT’s WildAid Effort

NEW YORK J. Walter Thompson used world-class athletes in its latest effort for wildlife conservation group WildAid to underscore the global nature of the cause and personify the breaking down of obstacles, said Eric Steinhauser, executive creative director at the New York shop.

Among those featured in the global TV campaign are American long-jumper Dwight Phillips, runner Hailie Gebreselassie of Ethiopia and sprinter Cathy Freeman, an Australian gold medalist in the 400 meters. A total of five spots, the first of which broke Aug. 12, will run in the U.S., Europe, India, China and Australia during the next year.

Shot by different directors, the ads combine live action with fantasy and use slow-motion photography and acute sound effects to deliver simple visual messages with few words. In “Bullet,” which was directed by Geoffry Barish, U.S. sprinter Maurice Greene outruns a speeding bullet and catches it before it strikes a tiger. “When we all come together,” Greene says with the tiger behind him, “we can do anything.”

Sean Thonson of MJZ directed “Traps,” which depicts a race in which U.S. hurdler Alan Johnson and others leap over not only hurdles but also pointed steel traps. With each hurdle, the traps get bigger. A third spot, “Elephants,” which was directed by Josh & Xander, features Phillips leaping in slow motion over a pile of elephant tusks. “We wanted these stories to be really simple and really powerful,” explained Steinhauser.

The spots were shot during the past nine months in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Ariz., Australia and Ethiopia. Many of the athletes, including Johnson and Greene, took time out from training for the 2004 Olymipic Games to donate their time to the cause, said Steinhauser, who also noted the contributions of special effects company AnimalLogics Productions. “It’s amazing the emotional connectivity that so many people have toward this,” he said.

Whitten, evp, deputy executive creative director on the campaign, also served as copywriter and art director on “Bullet.” Steinhauser also was as an art director on “Bullet.” Jon Krevolin was creative director and copywriter on that spot. Other copywriters included Howard Lenn and Kat O’Neill.

Glenn Price was art director and Howard Lenn was copywriter on “Elephants,” “Starting Gun” and “Traps.” Linda Dare and Kat O’Neill also served as art director and copywriter, respectively, on “Traps.”