#PROJECTFLYSF | Nike gathered 12 of the best Instagrammers, who’s total following reaches 1.3 million people, across the country and gave us all one hell of an experience to celebrate the launch of @NikeRunning’s Instagram. From the very beginning to the very end, it was nothing short of amazing. I flew first class from Chicago to San Francisco where a driver had been waiting for me to take me to my room at the Clift Hotel. After getting into my room, I found a WhiteICE Nike FuelBand sitting on my bed with instructions on where to meet up for dinner. During our private dinner, the Nike team gave us a briefing of our trip and why we were all here… we were here to run an ‘Epic Run’. Next came the tools (gifts). A new backpack, two shoes including the flyknit lunar1+ that hasn’t even come out yet, socks, shorts, a shirt, jacket, and gloves. 

The next day at 6:45am we gathered in the lobby of the hotel only to roll out of there four Escalades deep. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and ended up on the beginning of a small path. Our day really started here. We started running about half a mile on this path until we saw and ended up getting in 4 Helicopters. We got an incredible private tour over San Francisco. Our pilot even flew under and over the Golden Gate Bridge. Shit was crazy. After the tour over the city, the helicopters dropped us off at Mavericks Beach where we went on an amazing scenic and refreshing four mile run. After the Epic Run, we got another helicopter tour back to SF were we had a chance to sit down, talk about the amazing experience, and eat some brunch. But even after all this, Nike had one last trick up their sleeve. They presented us with a challenge of going on an Epic 13.1 mile run. The date has yet to be set for the Epic Run but all I know is training for it starts now. 

I’m very grateful and honored to be one of the few that was able to go on this adventure. I feel inspired. Not only as a photographer but as an athlete. How will I #makeitcount this year? By running more, shooting more, and living more. 

Instaswag: We do this for fun... & free stuff.

Um, so I’m probably going to be swimming in massive haterade (AGAIN) after this.

I had planned, some weeks ago, to compose a follow-up to my state of the Instagram nation—rant, diatribe, vent sesh, speaking out, standing up for the little guy, and other terms of (dis)endearment that spoke as much to me about the commenter as they did about what the person thought of what I wrote. (We all put a little bit of ourselves onto what we read.)—this here-and-now-gone-from-the-zeitgeist post that expressed some disappointment at the present condition of our beloved mobile photography social scene. And yes, tried to laugh a bit at it.

And then, unexpectedly, inspiration “flew” into my lap thanks to some old marketing tricks executed in novel fashion.

Perhaps you have heard of or participated in #projectflysf? No, you mean you’re not one of the handful of instagramers chosen by Nike to get whisked away in a helicopter over the international orange gateway to the West from Sausalito to Half Moon Bay and treated to a spirited yog in a load of free Nike gear?

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photo cred (L->R): @nike (the runners, I like that Nike & @nikerunning used the images as well), @dirka (has to be one of the best shots of the bridge I’ve ever seen), @jaredchamers (ballsy in the tunnel, love it, have you ever ridden it?) & @trashhand (awesome silhouette of the helicopter)

No? Well then, maybe you were the iger who was given a free pass to the Grammys by Mastercard, Really, no??? Hmmm. Positive? Cuz it looked rad.

Surely, you must have been the ones posting images of what you bought with the Paypal app for said company? Huh. You sure?

No? Well, me neither. It’s cool though. Remember, it’s just for fun… (wink, wink) this Instagram “we” do.

photo cred: @laurenlemon goes to the Grammys on Mastercard’s dime (love these photos, BTW. Check out her blog for more great shots)

Now, you think you know where this is going… but you don’t. Stop thinking, you over there, that Kelly is soooo angry and she’s just going to start her “bashing” again. As it was not the case previously, so it is not the case now. Read on…

The marketing brain-trusts at a number of gigantor brands have been using the growing influence of the IG mobile app and its users with monolithic follows to weasel in product ads via the feeds of the 50K+ club. How you ask… with free stuff.

Where once brands had to hope that you would find their account on Instagram (or Facebook, Twitter, and the likes)—willfully choosing to follow them, plus deal around the fact that you were knowingly being marketed to by a faceless, somewhat heartless corporation—they now have a face and reputation of producers of gorgeous imagery as the mask to enter behind, allowing the wolf into the hen’s quarters.

It’s “an” oldest trick in the book: popularity and trust earned by association. I mean, we’ve all seen Can’t Buy Me Love, She’s All That, or any other teen rom-com that asserts you are who you know, in the eyes of the masses.

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photo cred: @pdm (41K) - running along the coast in new Nike garb. Tagged in the post:

Morning run with @nikerunning and some friends. #projectflysf // @jaredchambers @moneal @curious2119 @mattbg @chrisconnolly @chrisozer @trashhand @swopes @amy @dantoffey @theycallmeldc @bru_knowz @imshep @bheal @burgettheidi @kdkuiper @dirka @michiesharine

Think about the economy of the situation: when you get people with trusted voices to just hang out with you and use your stuff, all it costs is the price of a plane ticket and some free gear. A free pass. Access to an app. And, some additional cred on their side for being asked to post by a big brand.

You don’t have to pay to have your ad placed on prime time TV. You don’t have to size ads for the web. Don’t have to pay radio voices… All while getting seen by a new, younger audience, known for a proclivity toward instant(er) gratification.

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photo cred: @paypal technically, but photos were taken by @mlle_michelle and @chrisozer (love, love the Home Depot shot)

Sorry to write it folks, but it’s the truth. iPhones, big screens, Macbooks, Droids, Mp3, trips to Mexico destination spots… We procure at a higher rate than any other generation before us. We buy many smaller things young, and… Well, you tell me. How many of you own a house, or property, or are not in some state of debt, or have not had your credit dinged due to the lingering recessed-state of the economy? It’s not a high number. We’ve been raised in an spreading cultural shift where we learn that we should obtain fast and quick because the big stuff is practically unattainable.

I mean, even take the idea behind the free goods discussed previously: Get lots of followers on IG and you’ll get Nike calling you up for a day of play. No wonder so many comments on the images of the higher echelon are peppered with, “please man, give me a shoutout.”

But to take a step back and get that splash of distaste in the mouths of those who assume I have a bone to pick, don’t tell me that Instagram is just about fun for you, and that you don’t feel some sense of responsibility to the audience you’ve amassed or the content you throw into the pixelated wind. If you can’t see the mountain top you’re standing on, maybe you don’t deserve it to shout from.

So, people whom I have just greatly offended: Get angry; put up those defenses; call me a hater; tell me it’s not what I write, it’s how I write it (fav callout); brand me with many monikers of disrepute… I dare you to tell me it’s not true.

Yours as always,