Behind The Ad: How Vans Used Stop-Motion To Celebrate 50 Years In Youth Culture

Global marketing head Fara Howard and global creative head Jamie Reilly on tapping brand heritage without dwelling on the past.

Behind The Ad: How Vans Used Stop-Motion To Celebrate 50 Years In Youth Culture

Forgive the somewhat ageist real talk, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, there aren’t a lot of truly cool 50-year-olds. At least not cool in the same way they might’ve been at 16 or 24. So to celebrate its anniversary of five decades as a part of youth culture, Vans decided to remind people of its history and how its used that heritage–without dwelling on it–to stay cool.

The stop-motion animated spot touts the brand’s incredible ability to ride waves of youthful rebellion and spread its influence around the world for half a century without chasing fads. And it’s not just in the skate world, either–Vans’ presence can be felt in music and even in movies they’re not allowed to legally mention. (Hint: “Aloha, Mr. Hand.”).

A while back, I spoke to Vans global president Doug Palladini, and he said that the key to the brand’s success is its heritage and organic ties to youth culture. “The brand has always been for people who are a bit anti-establishment, subculture, that’s why things like skateboarding and punk rock organically found their way to our brand,” said Palladini. “The company founder never set out to get Black Flag and Tony Alva wearing his shoes. They found us.”

On staying competitive within youth culture in 2016, Palladini said the brand’s biggest strength is that the stories in its advertising aren’t made up. “We don’t have to sit down with an advertising agency and brainstorm made-up concepts to tell the story of our brand, we just need to find creative ways to tell the stories that are already out there,” Palladini said. “Our biggest competitor is Nike and Nike can outspend us any time they want. They’re a behemoth. For Vans, it’s not checkbook marketing, it’s about focusing on authenticity and our heritage, which are things you can’t buy.”

In the newest episode of Co.Create‘s Behind the Ad video series, Vans’ vice-president of global marketing Fara Howard and vice-president of global creative Jamie Reilly explain the creative process behind the brand’s most recent commercial, and how it reflects the brand staying true to that ethos while still moving forward.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor and writer with Co.Create. He's a former staffer at Advertising Age, Creativity and Canadian Business magazine.