Pony Is Back and Badder Than Ever in Goodby Work

Thumbing its nose once again at conventional footwear advertising, athletic-shoe marketer Pony International this month launches a print campaign from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners that features a tattooed baby, a toe wrapped in a condom and a foot giving the finger.

The copyless, four-ad effort, breaking in February issues of publications in 120 countries, is the first effort for Pony from the Omnicom Group shop since it won the account in November. It is also the first produced work done by Fred Raillard and Farid Mokart—the French copywriting team known as Fred and Farid—since they joined Goodby in October 2002 from Bartle Bogle Hegarty in London.

Pony will spend $5-7 million on ads this year, said vice president of marketing John Lewis. The objective is to stand out from competitors such as Nike (the category leader, with 39 percent market share), Reebok, New Balance, Adidas and Puma. The work is pure Pony “feet with attitude” positioning.

The ads from the San Francisco shop feature jarring images shot in a classic portrait style. “Luv Bird” shows a bare foot with the middle toe outstretched in a profane gesture of contempt. “Angry Baby” features a little boy in diapers, sucking on a pacifier. He has “Mom” tattoo on his belly and represents the notion that Pony has always behaved as a “young, fresh brand,” according to Fred and Farid.

In “Love & Hate,” the attitude comes from the feet, with those words tattooed on toes. And in “Erection,” an ad that sexualizes the foot, a big toe sports a condom.

The Pony logo and a shoe appear in the corner of each of the ads.

The 21-year-old fashion athletic brand, acquired by Global Brand Marketing of Santa Barbara, Calif., in March, delights in shock-value advertising. Pony’s last consumer ads, created in-house by previous owner The Firm, included print work that featured porn stars such as Jenna Jameson.

Lewis said the ads are meant to “stop and make you think and consider the brand in a way you haven’t before.” He added, “It’s supposed to provoke some kind of response”—or, as Fred and Farid described it, introduce an “element of danger.”

Pony’s general target is 15-25-year-olds. But the company is chasing a wider psychographic, Lewis said: “the person who’s sick and tired of what’s being offered in the market”—someone who follows sports but also wants the latest in fashion, such as “aging hipsters in Hollywood.”

In the U.S., the work will run in men’s lifestyle, fashion and music magazines such as Tokion, Flaunt and Slam. Executions may also run as outdoor ads and wild postings in some countries, Lewis said.