Inside Year Three of #OptOutside With REI’s Chief Creative Officer

Posted on Posted in Advertising

In 2015, outdoor retailer REI changed the conversation around Black Friday, and won practically every advertising award on the planet, with #OptOutside, a campaign centered around REI’s decision to close all of its stores on the biggest shopping day of the year and pay all of its employees to spend time outdoors with family and friends instead.

Two years later, REI continues to evolve #OptOutside. New for Black Friday 2017 is what REI calls an “experiential search engine” at, which collects user-generated content tagged #OptOutside on Instagram and combines it with real-time information about locations and experiences across the country. There will also be 20 UGC-heavy videos.

Adweek spoke with REI’s chief creative officer, Ben Steele, about the new activation, as well as what keeps #OptOutside fresh and differentiated in the marketplace. #OptOutside, he said, began as a program for employees, and that remains a key part of it. On Black Friday again this year, REI will close its 151 stores, process no online sales and pay all 12,000 employees not to come to work.

But #OptOutside has been adopted as a movement by consumers and by other companies and organizations, Steele added. Collecting that content, and organizing it with a search engine—in a way that’s inspirational but also practically useful—seemed like a great next step.

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