Bo Doesnt Know

Another commercial that benefited from some accidental genius was from Nike in the early 1990s. Most students of advertising remember the epic "Bo knows Diddley" spot created by Wieden + Kennedy for Nike's cross-trainer using cross-sport athlete Bo Jackson and rhythm-and-blues great Bo Diddley.

The commercial featured big-name athletes from various sports saying "Bo knows [insert appropriate sport]." Michael Jordan saying, "Bo knows basketball." Jim Everett saying, "Bo knows football." Joan Benoit, John McEnroe, Wayne Gretzky, and others exclaiming the athletic prowess of Bo Jackson. This introductory phrase was intercut with images of the versatile athlete playing the various appropriate sports, all to the rhythm of Diddley's signature hand-jive beat.

In the original commercial, the final scene shows Jackson trying quite unsuccessfully to play the guitar, with Diddley saying, "Bo, you don't know diddly."

Months after the original spot first ran, Nike aired an alternative version that had Bo Jackson playing a mean guitar throughout. This sequel spot ended with Bo Diddley saying, "Bo, I guess you do know diddly."

When I was judging the New York Art Directors Club awards competition later that year I asked one of the campaign's creators, David Jenkins, if they had planned to cut two versions of the commercial all along. He confessed that the creative team played almost no role in the generation of the second spot. It seems that the film editor was inspired by an outtake where Bo Diddley uttered the "I guess you do know diddly" line. The technician simply edited 30 seconds of footage of Bo Jackson at the guitar meshed deftly with the music track to give the illusion he could actually play the instrument, then cut the Bo Diddley outtake onto the end.

In this case, the editor's open-mindedness grasped the potential of the mistake in the original shooting. Additionally, it took the open-mindedness of the creative team and client to go with the unsolicited alternative.

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