An aging athletic father and his young, urban son embark on a hike through Tibet’s harsh mountains. The landscape is as stunning as the son’s inexperience and alienation from nature’s beauty. Still, all ends well as the son learns a thing or two about nature while bonding with his father. This happy story comes to us from an advertisement for the North Face. Except it doesn’t come to us but rather it’s an ad tailored to the people in China. The North Face advertising campaign features four of these “documentaries” or to coin our own word – advermentaries. The big idea behind the documentaries is to encourage China’s city dwellers to step away from the screens, step away from restaurants and malls, step away from the hectic city life and head to the great outdoors where nature provides tranquil or thrill. Each documentary features some type of outdoor adventure.
The advertising campaign is an attempt to bring the North Face, an iconic, American outdoors brand to China. With the help of Ideo, a global design consultancy, the North face ‘explored’ ideas on how to become a part of Chinese society. While its American clientele tends to include endurance athletes, mountain climbers and extreme skiers among others, North Face’s potential customers in China are different. There, appreciating the outdoors is more of a communing with nature experience. The long standing narrative about China’s ancient culture has to do with emperors and scholars alike heading out into nature for renewal of the soul and spirit. At least this was the insight that Ideo provided. In order for the North face to become a part of this landscape it needed a message that fit this nature as spiritual journey experience, which is almost the opposite of the adventure seeking Westerner. In Ideo’s words – “old nature and new outdoors.” And if people in China want to “go wild” and run an ultra marathon or two, the North Face can help them with that too.