Spike, Wade Simplify Conversation

LOS ANGELES Converse today unveils a Spike Lee-directed campaign starring Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade.

Independent Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in Sausalito, Calif., created the ads for the Nike-owned athletic-footwear company in North Andover, Mass. Converse spends about $20 million annually on ads, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The first spot airs during ESPN’s pre-game coverage of tonight’s National Basketball Association game between the Heat and the Houston Rockets.

The agency took a somewhat unorthodox approach, eschewing action footage and hip music as it filmed Wade on court, in black and white, answering the questions of Lee, who serves as an off-screen interlocutor.

Senior art director Tom Coates and associate creative director Adrian Hilton fashioned the campaign.

“The original concept is to embrace the simplicity of Dwyane’s game and character,” said Coates. “Not a lot of people know him as a person. The spots are stripping around the excess.”

Said Hilton: “There are no special effects, no music. They are about how he views the game and life. Spike Lee and Wade had a great bond. The spots are special for their innocence and human quality.”

Coates and Hilton scripted a series of 30 questions for Lee to ask.

Often, Coates recalled, a particular answer would send the interview down an unexpected road, and Lee would pursue it. “That turned the scripted ideas into natural moments,” Coates said.

The Converse Web site will contain additional footage not used in the commercials.