A Conversation with EQUINOX”s New Creative Director ELIZABETH NOLAN

By Anita Marie Antonini

Winter 2013-2014

It’s that time of year again when I say “Happy New Year” way into February. Well, there was also Chinese New Year and Tibetan New Year (March 2) is still on the horizon. A new year to put a smile on your face and make some enjoyable resolutions like getting to the gym more, that’s if you have a membership at EQUINOX.

I had the pleasure to catch up with Equinox’s new Creative Director, Elizabeth Nolan, about their latest advertising campaign, “Equinox Made Me Do It.” One could say that in this case: a bad influence is a good thing.

Storytelling and branding have always coexisted in the world of advertising. As a Creative Director, Liz enlightens us on the creative strategy, what it means to visually brand a global company, plus how to do it with the right amounts of intrigue and accessibility.

Anita Marie Antonini: This is the first time that Equinox has worked with Wieden & Kennedy on a new advertising campaign. You”ve commissioned British-born photographer Robert Wyatt for his candidly styled moments which have a great narrative sense–what global lifestyle branding is all about now–but with less provocations and more storytelling. Please elaborate for us on that choice and the concept of collaborating with partners that execute vision and stay true to your brand?

Elizabeth Nolan: The emphasis was on building a new campaign with a real story at its heart, something that Equinox could evolve over time. Wieden brought a concept to the table that absolutely delivered on that brief and from there it was about finding a photographer that, of course, had a fashion aesthetic, but who was also able to bring a story to life. Each shot is a story–a story with multiple interpretations. No one interpretation is right or wrong. That’s the beauty of the concept. I think what Robert Wyatt’s work has is a cinematic sensibility that really brings these moments to life. Everything has multiple questions marks hanging over it.

AMA: Robert Wyatt’s work has a street energy to it that relies on the unexpected. What was it like to work with Robert on set?

EN: Robert is the perfect blend of vision and collaboration. He inherently understood the project from the very beginning, he just got it, and that makes everyone else’s job so much easier. You’re right about that “unexpected” element in his work–the sense that something is just a little bit “off”–and that was what we wanted here. The shoot was nothing but fun, and I think you feel that in the energy of the work.

AMA: Equinox is about wanting to go to the gym, not about the dreaded “work out.” The word “work” is what we are getting away from. There is this kind of repetition at the gym that is good and meditative, but the mind wanders and those ads make you want to tell your own story. It provokes, and that is the point, so please tell us the story behind the story.

EN: There’s a fundamental insight driving all of this, that to be in the gym, in and of itself, is not the end goal. The goal is to feel better, look better, and as a result live a more provoked, exciting, dangerous, fabulous, rewarding life outside the club.

Our members are not the kind of people who dread walking through our doors. They’re driven, passionate, high-performance people. In the end, they come to Equinox to get results. This campaign imagines what some of those less expected results might be. Our brand tagline is “It’s not fitness, it’s life.” This is a campaign about living life. There’s something so refreshing in the honesty of that I think.

AMA: How did the concept for the campaign become realized?

EN: Weiden nailed the idea in the first creative review. It jumped off the wall and we all just knew “Equinox Made Me Do It” was it. The work then came in crafting the scenarios, making sure each one pushed boundaries. We all believed in the notion of never explaining too much, of creating layered, cinematic images that left questions unanswered. Too much brand advertising closes the loop, hammers home the message, and leaves nothing left for the audience to discover. I’ve always believed in the idea of letting the audience finish the sentence.

AMA: As a Creative Director, please explain how a concept brands a company in an advertisement with an abstract quality that wants to be understood (or possibly misunderstood) and at the same time reach your goal. And specifically for a luxury gym, what does fitness have to do with it?

EN: Our members are smart. They get it. Some of them might not LIKE it, but we’re okay with that. The part that brings it back to Equinox, to the promise of what our brand can deliver is that each scenario is powered by the Equinox body. If you’re not in great shape, you can’t jump a fence in a Dolce tuxedo. That’s where we come in.

AMA: Nike’s “Just Do it.” campaign was so highly successful, but not one image sticks out in my mind as much as that iconic slogan does. I do believe that “Equinox Made Me Do It” will also become a new tag line to live by. How might the message outlast the campaign?

EN: In the past we’ve been a brand that got a lot of attention for producing beautiful (and controversial) images, but we’ve never really had a voice. As a copywriter by trade, it was really important to me that we found one, particularly in this era of social media domination. The line IS the campaign. It’s also the perfect articulation of our brand. The wish from the beginning has always been that members (and non-members) will take it, run with it, and make it their own. There’s a democracy to the idea that I love so much and such potential for how it can live and be interpreted, from the subversive to the inspirational. The hope is that “Equinox Made Me Do It” becomes a part of the lexicon.

AMA: Of course, in the concept of “Equinox Made Me Do It,” here a bad influence is a good thing. We all need to be naughty every now and then! What is your secret pleasure?

EN: British chocolate. Net-a-Porter. I work out at Equinox so I can eat one and still fit into the clothes I buy from the other.

AMA: What is up next in your creative sphere that you can share with us for the near future?

EN: There’s so much going on. We’ll be back with more campaign images later in the year, we’ve just shot Personal Training and Pilates with Laurie Bartley and we have a big Group Fitness shoot coming up, photographer TBD. Our digital presence is getting a massive overhaul through 2014 and much of the work will really start to sing there. It’s a very exciting time to be part of the brand.

Elizabeth Nolan is the Creative Director at Equinox. She previously held roles at Victoria’s Secret and Young & Rubicam. She is a former WPP Fellow and hails from Liverpool, England. She currently resides in New York City.


The Official Site for Equinox

Written by Anita Marie Antonini

Photography Courtesy of Elizabeth Nolan

Design by Mina Darius


Photography Courtesy of Elizabeth Nolan

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