Here's the video:
Here's the ad, described by Clark Shelk as "The Crampon Ad."
The simultaneous appearance of these ads speaks to a crisis in the climbing industry which is working itself out in various ways. Many people whom I talk with in the climbing industry feel bullish about the prospects of continued substantial growth in climbing. Business plans for new gyms, new companies, and so on are being written in anticipation of better economic climate and a higher profile for climbing.
Yet at the same time, there is unease about what that might mean for smaller companies who focus on creating products that are aimed at a core climbing demographic, products which are easy to copy using inferior materials or at lower cost overseas or both. With a new emphasis on mass enjoyment of climbing, comes the prospect of climbers who are less concerned or have any real knowledge about the quality of their gear. In bouldering this is particularly the case since the possibility of gear failure doesn't automatically imply severe injury or death. Chillingly, we are seeing potentially lethal counterfeit gear bearing a Petzl brand. In clothing, such concerns are even more remote, to say the least.
If climbing is truly poised to become a mainstream sport, it might well have to adopt the rules of mainstream sports marketing and manufacture, which is not necessarily a pretty sight. In mainstream sports marketing, knockoffs are routine, indeed done by top companies themselves to expand the brand. Overseas manufacture is seen as essential by most companies at this point, if for no other reason than to compete with the other companies who do it. A focus on short-term returns, ceaseless production of new product lines and models, and planned obsolescence are all part of this environment.
I have long believed that climbing is a special sport that ultimately fails to conform well to the principles of capitalist practice which so many pastimes have adopted. I think that climbing works best according to a model of respect for the original ideas and innovations of others and trying to avoid a race to the bottom. However it is difficult to see how this attitude can survive in a new climate of expansion and widespread public participation.
Acceptance of a low profile and small market share are too often the price of integrity in any human endeavor. I applaud the two ads and their message but am concerned that ultimately in a "free" market, their net effect will be minimal. They argue for ethical purchasing decisions in an economic climate that has been trending in the opposite direction. However, their basic point is well taken, especially in a sport such as climbing. In climbing itself, reward is a direct reflection of effort and dedication. The same should be true in the industry that serves the sport.