The Air Flightposite: Shoe of the Net Gen

In its advertisement, Nike portrays its new shoe, the Air Flightposite, as a statement against the traditional American life of the last 50 years. It speaks to the computer generation, drawing on their interests in technology, aliens, and the future. The fact that this advertisement appeared in an issue of Rolling Stone magazine clearly shows the product’s target audience of active young men who are on the cutting edge of American pop culture. Most importantly, however, the shoe is shown as an x-factor, something unknown, unpredictable, and unearthly. Primarily through its contrast with the classic American hot dog, but also through its association with the internet, Nike plays on the bizarre looks of its product in an attempt to show the Air Flightposite as a worldly enigma that leaves the traditional American life, associated with the hot dog, far behind.

The image of the hot dog is a powerful one, for it brings to mind many things; while most would assume those associations to be positive, the intent of the ad is actually the reverse. For many people the hot dog is the quintessential American food, indelibly linked with baseball, picnics, and barbecues, reminders of the "good old days." Hot dogs are a comfort food. For the younger generation, however, they can be a sign of childhood and of their parent’s influence. These things are not necessarily bad, but they are parts that maturation endeavors to leave behind. The Air Flightposite appeals to those teens and young adults attempting to discard their childhood and prove themselves as adults. Not adults like theirparents, however, but mature while still being hip, active and youthful.

In addition, the ad plays on the humorous fact that hot dogs for years have been slightly suspect as to the nature of their ingredients. Meat that is of suspect quality as well as various other unsavory items are frequently included. For young, middle class men, quite probably well read and educated, hot dogs may bear too much resemblance to the sausages of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle for comfort. While this uncertainty may have been overlooked by previous generations, our extraordinarily critical younger generation will find it hard to ignore the dubious nature of the hot dog. This uncertainty is not desirable; in this case, the "hard to define things" are unappealing, and better left alone.

For the Air Flightposite, however, the phrase "made of many hard to define things" implies adventure, enigma, and a world without limits. Its unique alien-green color is accentuated by the lighting, reinforcing its inorganic and farfetched looks. While the hot dog is easy to recognize and define when first viewing the ad, it takes the reader a moment to determine what exactly the other object is. The shoe is oddly oriented, seeming to stand on tip-toe, making it even harder to identify. It does not look like your traditional shoe. The Nike logo, while small, is easily spotted and backs up the product with the "cool" Nike reputation. The company wants you to believe that this is the shoe that Agent Fox Mulder of the X-Files would play basketball in.

Not only does the ad play on the hot dog’s negative connotations, but it appeals to the more health-conscious young adults by purposely making the hot dog look unappealing. It is practically devoid of condiments, save for a messy-looking smear of mustard. Rather than the perfect food shown in most advertisements and commercials where not one sesame seed is out of place, this hot dog looks real and not very much like a national icon. Its colors are dull and unexciting. The ad suggests that the hot dog is not only disgusting but outdated and insufficient as an icon. They do not suggest replacing it with the shoe, however. Rather than simply a national symbol, the Air Flightposite is suggested as a worldwide icon, a token of our increasingly global society.

While the hot dog is undeniably American, the unorthodox style of the Air Flightposite transcends national boundaries, and like the internet, it becomes a part of the global society. The ad never tells the reader the name of the product it is selling, its price, or where it can be purchased. Instead, there is simply a web address. Nike realizes that the people who would buy this shoe are people who have computers and are connected to the internet, young people who would think nothing of hopping online to get more information about a product. In this way, the advertisement leads its readers onto the Nike website. Once there, even though they may be deterred by the Air Flightposite’s $180 pricetag, curiosity about the rest of the products may lead them to browse around and perhaps purchase something else. In this way the ad not only showcases the shoe, but the entire website as well.

Through its contrasts with the classic American hot dog and all the negative connotations therein, its close association with and use of the internet, and the unique looks of the product, Nike draws on the futuristic desires of America’s young middle class men. This cleverly constructed advertisement succeeds in its purpose because it knows the audience it needs to reach and plays on their innate need to leave behind the old in search of the new.