In the first installment of our new series: ‘PR Resolution Meets’, we chat to Margo Neely, Chief Creative Officer at Neely and Daughters.
Margo’s work first caught our eye when we were introduced to The Neely Air 808 Sneaker – a brilliant creative fusion between sport and entertainment, in which Margo designed a pair of prototype sneakers that are also a fully working drum machine.
Here, Margo reveals how a chance discovery of her work for the “Just for Kicks” design challenge struck a chord with a passionate audience, and despite not a single dollar being spent on marketing and PR, secured 344 pieces of global coverage, cementing her reputation as an international creative powerhouse.
What was the role of Public Relations when it came to Neely & Daughter’s work with Adidas?
What makes this project’s worldwide reach truly incredible (and I’m sure will come as a surprise to many), is that Adidas and Roland were not in any way involved with the making of, nor the promotion or development of this project, and not a single dollar was spent on marketing or PR. The success of the Neely Air 808 sound shoe is both wholly organic and the definition of viral.
The product’s genesis was an “instant download” — by which I mean it came to me in December 2012 as a fully formed idea. I was part of a New York City based art and writing collective, and one of our prompts was the “Just for Kicks” Challenge: Design a next level custom sneaker. The blueprint I generated was for a wearable digital instrument that uses the movement and rhythm of the human body to create beats. I was contemplating how much we’d forfeited culturally in New York, as the city had supplanted its somewhat lawless art-culture bacchanal vibe of the 70s, 80s, and 90s with conformity, corporate interests, and luxury condos. The idea was to “Disturb the Peace” in the streets, 808 being police code for just that, by amplifying the sound of the individual and broadcasting that unique rhythm into an exceedingly staid, regimented, and compartmentalized world — where the freedom and creativity which once defined our city seemed to be stifled and fading at an exponential rate.
The case study I created for the Neely Air 808s lived in silence on an archived website, until one very miraculous day in 2017. Marco Tank and Robert Schaeffer of Hijacked AM (Groom Lake), two incredible entrepreneur-artists with a thriving agency in Amsterdam, randomly discovered the work online and shared it with their audience of musicians, artists, and creators to profound response. Robert and Marco understood and believed in the purpose and potential of the instrument, as did their audience. The design and branding ultimately had little to nothing to do with the project’s real impact; Rather, it was the functionality of the sneaker that spoke to and captured an enthusiastic audience around the globe.
From that simple act of sharing, the match was lit. The Neely Air 808 sneaker made its way around the globe virtually, achieving a reach of 6.21 billion, 344 unique pieces of content in major publications, and over 54 million fans worldwide. A top PR executive in New York City gave the campaign a valuation of somewhere in the range of $19-32 million to achieve this kind of reach.
CoverageBook was instrumental (no pun intended) in driving the development of the actual physical product forward. It further qualified the concept by quantifying the impact for us, which enabled me to obtain an audience with VC firms and other major entities interested in funding and developing the work. Matt Yost and the team at Soundtrack Loops came onboard to create authentic beats for the 808 sound shoe; In 2020, University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Capstone Project collaborated with me to develop the case study and mechanical blueprint to bring a functional prototype to life.
What is big in the world of Neely & Daughters right now?
Artificial Intelligence and Divine Intelligence. Machine and man.
Divine intelligence being the source of all things for the open human artist — epiphany and vision are beyond human and beyond form; All artists who allow themselves to surrender to the flow know that anything can come through at any time. Work can take the form of visual art, writing, film, feats of engineering, music, etc. You just have to be open to the idea that all is possible and then allow it.
AI, like the hungry human mind, is a library, a compendium, absorbing information and experience and remixing it. Where other artists fear AI will replace writers and artists, I disagree. I think the act of making art is the function of the art. It’s the enjoyment and the energy we feel in the creation of the thing, and though it is to an extent about the end result, it’s more about connection to something beyond us, getting ourselves out of the way, and allowing this energy to pass through the body. Making art, writing, performance — these are all healing, meditative acts.
I’m working on a project now which is a sort of 21st century take on Kasparov vs Deep Blue — where there will be no winner. It’s a comparative study of what the artist sees vs what the AI sees when given identical prompts. It’s fascinating — the difference, the variation, and divergence.
And in keeping with allowing for divine intelligence to guide content creation, in addition to the development of the 808 prototype, I spent 2018 through the pandemic lockdown year(s) making over one thousand films (one a day on a budget of zero dollars) which form a large scale interactive digital art installation called Body of Work; I created the blueprint for the BPM • The Beats Per Minute app, I wrote three separate books which I shared in serialized form on Facebook and Instagram throughout 2022-3 (the search in on for a publisher), and I began production on the sweeping Picture It films — inspired by the Sicilian love stories of Sophia Petrillo on the hit 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls.
What is your proudest campaign or piece of coverage?
Within the Neely Air 808 campaign, the interview I was privileged to give executive editor Rounik Sethi for Ask Audio.
Rounik very generously gave me the gift of this platform to speak about my work and the genesis of it, and Ask Audio’s incredible audience of musicians and creators responded with total understanding and enthusiasm. They cared about what inspired the idea, and they understood the instrument and the “why” of it. It felt to me this profound moment of accord and enthusiasm. As a musician and artist that was enormously meaningful to me.
What are the tools your team couldn’t live without?
Walking meditation and music to clear the mind and connect to that divine inspiration, the iPhone (I’ve executed thousands of professional photo shoots, written multiple books, and filmed thousands of movies with mine) Adobe creative suite, Freepik, Envato Elements, and Soundtrack Loops for making music. All of these tools allow us to “collaborate” with incredible artists from around the globe that we may or may not have ever met. And of course, CoverageBook.
“CoverageBook gives artists a way to quantify their audience and visualize the impact of their work, which can be invaluable as far as potentials for funding are concerned.”Margo Neely
What, or who inspires you and your team?
Mission driven people with vision, depth, and boundless passion who do what it takes to bring their work life. Enthusiastic seekers. People who delight in their purpose. I find that genuinely sexy and extremely inspiring.
Aside from your own work, what has been your favourite campaign in the past 12 months, and why?
As we move from pandemic to endemic, I think people are very overwhelmed, frustrated, and tired of being sold to — certainly by corporate entities and especially here in the United States. People are spending less time engaging with advertising channels where big dollars are pumped into campaigns, and more time engaging with content on their phones. For this reason I choose @italysegreta and @mycheapitalianhome on Instagram, who have captured our attention and our imagination by offering the possibility of a return to a simpler, more beautiful, and more meaningful experience of life and culture in my family’s country of origin.
To check out more inspirational examples of PR work, or enter your own coverage book, visit CoverageBook’s PR Showcase.