SHINOLA GETS SMART: Shinola is at it again. In 2013, following Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, the watch manufacturer that is headquartered in Motor City took out an ad in The New York Times to defend its hometown. The text read, “To those who’ve written off Detroit, we give you the Birdy.”

The Birdy, as many would come to learn, is the name of the brand’s signature watch style, but the double innuendo certainly was an eye-catcher. Now, the brand is unleashing another round of ads, this time focusing on a new target: the Apple Watch. The ads, which will hit print on Friday — the same day as the Apple Watch is available for pre-order — take jabs at the smartwatch’s extensive capabilities, pairing pointed captions next to images of Shinola’s Runwell model.

This story first appeared in the April 9, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We just came back from Baselworld, and there was a lot of chatter about the Apple Watch,” said chief marketing officer Bridget Russo. “We thought this was the right topic, and the right time. We are launching at Selfridges on April 10, the same time as the Apple Watch. It’s not even that we see them as competition — it’s more so that there is going to be excitement around the watch, so what can we do that’s very Shinola?”

Added founder Tom Kartsotis, “In celebration of Bridget’s recent promotion to chief marketing officer of Bedrock Manufacturing Co., we decided to let her do something really goofy.”

While traditional watch companies allocate 30 to 40 percent of revenues to marketing, Shinola only budgets 15 percent, Russo noted. To create a simple yet effective campaign, the company worked with New York-based branding agency Partners & Spade, settling on three variations that will be printed in publications such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The final copy reads: “A watch so smart, it can tell you the time, just by looking at it;” “A watch too smart to try and be a phone,” and “Are you frightened by technology, but tired of the inconvenience of clock towers and sundials?”

“It strikes the right cord without being too much,” Russo said. “I think that maybe an Apple customer might say, ‘Hey, I’ll have a Shinola watch, too.’ They are — no pun intended — apples and oranges.”

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