Old Gold – Marketing Gone Wrong


Original Publication Date: Spring 2000

by John Cavan

I’d like to think I’ve seen a lot through my years of snowboarding, both good and bad, but nothing, I mean nothing could have prepared me for what I had to struggle through one day towards the end of March while I was in charge of a snowboard park and pipe.

The call came first thing in the morning from the mountain managers. There was going to be a photo shoot for a watch company that day in the pipe and they wanted things looking top notch. Great, I thought, the Open is right around the corner, maybe some big name company has got some riders they want to shoot. I quickly hurried to get the pipe cut and raked, and made sure no one barged the freshly cut pipe. Who was coming I thought, actually kind of excited. Anything to make a mundane weekday fly by would be good for me. I began sessioning my private pipe waiting for the “big guns” to roll in.

Now granted I have been riding long enough to know that usually words like “photo shoot” and “watches” when combined usually equal gayness, I had visions of grandeur. These visions however were completely smashed to hell when I saw the camera crew come strolling up to the bottom of the pipe. First of all, there were two photographers along with an “assistant.” I could tell just by how they were dressed that things were going to be interesting. I mean when was the last time you saw Gary Land or Jeff Curtes wearing duck boots, wool LL Bean jackets, and a pair of Bolle goggles that looked like they got stolen off of a 1956 Swiss GS Racer? These guys looked about as comfortable on snow as Big Pun and Fat Joe did at the Open a few years ago. Then there was their gear; they lugged boxes, crates, even a couple of those funny umbrella things you often see at fashion shoots. They looked like they were outfitting a full frontal assault of Everest’s north face, not shooting watches at Sunapee.

Now I will refrain from verbally assaulting the snowboarders that subjected themselves to this horrific display of marketing gone bad. We will assume that the two riders were young kids who were momentarily blinded by the bright lights of stardom and were used and abused worse than a cheap hooker. I strolled up to the media crew and asked them if they needed any help. They immediately answered no and entered into an epic discussion of light and F-stops and just about every other photographic term you could possibly fit into one conversation.  I had to get out of there and in a hurry. It was at about that time that some friends from Eastern Boarder showed up and we retreated to sessioning the pipe.

After riding for a few runs I looked down to see where the clowns had disappeared to. What I saw was a sight that I still laugh about today. One of the “riders” was flopping around in the snow like a beached harbor seal. He had his sleeve rolled up so you could clearly see his nice new watch. The photographers were snapping photos at an epic rate, and all the while the ass-istant was yelling things like: “Really tweak it out!”  “That looks so Extreme!” or my favorite, “We’re gonna make you look like you’re twenty feet out, Dude!” He looked like a god damn imbecile, and his buddy (we’ll call him rider 2) knew it. He strolled up to me and hesitantly tried to make small talk. I, on other hand, had no time for his idle chat. Sorry I said, talk to me later, I’m to busy watching your friend make a jackass out of himself.

It was around now that I grabbed my camera and began taking pictures of the photo shoot. I felt that people weren’t going to believe this without photo evidence. Rider 1 was still rolling around in the snow, he seemed to resemble The Crocodile Hunter when he rolls around in the water wrestling an alligator, only that guys way cooler and that’s not saying much. Finally I could take no more. “Are you guys going to ride? ” I yelled, “you know we did cut the pipe for you.”

“Well dude,” Bozo #1 started, “We’re looking for the best possible image of these watches and by shooting them in the snow like this, and then taking some wide angle stills of the pipe, back in the lab we can create an image that is really going to make an impression on you boarders and really make you want to buy these watches.”

“Well sir,” I started, “no snowboarder I know will ever buy one of those watches, even if they are the greatest watch on earth. If you make an ad like you’re talking about you have a better chance of selling bottled rat piss than one of those things. Why don’t you try actually shooting some photos of those guys riding.”

Visions of my short career as a snowboard director came crashing down all around me. Great, I thought, I will surely be fired for this outburst. Yup, I will soon be back in the city probably pedaling myself to this very same watch company looking for a job.

Surprisingly the photo extraordinaire didn’t say much. I think he was more insulted that I was criticizing his photo skills than anything else. After staring at me puzzled for quite a while, he moved the shoot up the wall of the pipe. I watched from the lift shack as this veritable circus of one-sleeved riders tried in vain to get above the lip. Each time they would flail into the air heaving their watch-clad wrist towards the cameraman’s eager lens. As I sat there watching this fiasco one of the lift attendants walked up and said, “You know what the funniest part of this whole thing is, the foolish watches don’t even work. They can tell you how many Twinkies you’ve eaten or even how many licks it takes to get to the center of Tootsie Roll Pop, but you’re on your own if you need the time.”

  • Reminds me of the time when Abercrombie and Finch showed up at HCSC to shoot skateboarding- they asked staff to ‘pose’ for shots- so we all gave them what they wanted- a bunch of retards. I don’t think they got the shot they wanted. We felt really bad……YEAH RIGHT!

  • You don’t learn that lesson by looking at Getty… damn, all you have to do is lay in the snow and photoshop yourself onto something epic?
    I’m so going pro next week.

  • Andrius

    You’d think that there’s enough decent snowboard coverage these days, and enough people who’ve actually participated in the sport that you wouldn’t see this sort of thing anymore…but you’d be wrong.