Copywriting Doesn’t Get Any Better Than in This Haunting Nike Print Ad From 1990

MullenLowe's Dave Weist picks his 3 favorite ads

In a today’s world, where almost anything can be an ad, there’s still nothing quite like traditional print work to remind you of the fundamentals of great copywriting and art direction. And very few print ads are as impressively crafted as “Madman,” a Nike classic from 1990 by Wieden + Kennedy.

Dave Weist, executive creative director at MullenLowe in Boston, chose “Madman” as one of his three favorite ads when he sat down with Adweek recently for our “Best Ads Ever” video series. (See the video above.)

The ad’s words, written by Jerry Cronin and overlaid on an image of a runner on a bridge at night, full moon in the background, remain potent almost 30 years later. Weist even recited them for us, as you can see in the video above.

Mothers, there a mad man running in the streets,
And he’s humming a tune,
And he’s snarling at dogs,
And he still has four more miles to go.
Just do it.

See the ad below. Click to enlarge.

David Jenkins was the art director on “Madman,” and Arthur Meyerson was the photographer. It was first published in Runner’s World on Jan. 1, 1990. It remains one of those seminal pieces of advertising craft.

“The economy of words. The way it’s written,” says Weist. “It’s really just so perfectly crafted. I look at it, and it blows me away still.”

Old Nike print ads are the stuff of legend, of course. For example, check out our recent “Best Ads Ever” video with McCann’s John Mescall, in which he waxes poetic about a different Nike print execution from the same era.

Another of Weist’s favorite ads is a renowned car spot that’s particularly legendary in Boston—Volkswagen’s “Pink Moon” by Arnold Worldwide from 1999. Weist was working at Arnold at the time, but didn’t work work on the ad. However, his current ECD partner at MullenLowe, Tim Vaccarino, did.

“I was shooting another spot in New York. He was editing at a place called Bug Editorial with this guy Andre Betz,” Weist recalls. “I walked into the edit room, and Andre is like, ‘You want to see something?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll get an early peek.’ I sat back, and I was just like, ‘Holy shit. What did I just see?'”

“Pink Moon,” famously set to the Nick Drake song of the same name, has been referenced a number of times in our “Best Ads Ever” series, and Weist echoes the praises that are consistently heaped upon it.

“It had a great narrative to it. Great song,” he says. “They actually cut it in a much different way than it was boarded. The creative process continued all the way through the spot. It just didn’t start with one thing. It kept evolving. And then, in the end, it just had this tremendous life to it. It just rung so true for the brand, it really did.”

Finally, Weist picked another auto spot for his third pick—Honda “Grrr.”

“It’s about dreams, but it’s also about engineering dreams,” he says. “Every note of it is amazingly done. I love the fact that it’s about hate something to make something better, which is really in their DNA as a company, that perpetual change and moving forward.”

He adds: “As a brand story, it’s perfect. The execution is flawless. Everything about it just kind of blew me away. I remember when it first came out, we just watched it over and over and over again. It had that same feeling, like when you were an ad student and you’re like, ‘I’ll never make anything this great!’ I love it when people bring things like that into the world, because it just makes you play harder.”