By  on May 1, 2006

NEW YORK — Among St. John's more controversial moves was the dropping of Kelly Gray in its ad campaigns in favor of Angelina Jolie.

David Lipman, creative director of Lipman, the ad agency that created the campaign, defended the choice of Jolie, and said he believes her strong personality and commitment to helping children around the globe are positive attributes for the brand.

"Angelina stands, today and tomorrow, for a powerful, strong woman with an amazing intellect who cares for human kind and spends so much time giving to people in need," said Lipman. "She's the most famous face in Hollywood, and she's not a child anymore. She's about to become a mother of three."

He said Jolie, who has a three-year contract with St. John, wears the brand when she travels around the world. "She likes the fact that she can go to Washington wearing a St. John suit or go to Davos," said Lipman.

Lipman contended that remaking an image takes time. "It takes three years for an image to set in," he said. "Advertising should always lead as the fantasy of the brand and the ultimate expression of the brand. Then everything moves along with it. That's why to look at [it] today is not being a visionary."

"I think the brand is moving in the right direction," he added. "It's an incredible amount of hard work. It always has to stay true 'to the lady' and 'to the woman.' It's never going to be positioned as a groovy brand. The way we position it is as an American luxury brand with California roots."

Although most agencies contacted by WWD were puzzled by the Jolie move, Doug Lloyd, owner of Lloyd & Co., argued a change in advertising was necessary and thought Jolie was a good choice to signal the company's changes.

"It's tough. It's a house that's gotten to a certain point where they know they have to change something. They were going for maximum impact with a celebrity. She [Jolie] is the most high-profile there is. She'll be liked by some people and disliked by others. It signals a big change for the brand. In the process, they'll alienate some people. That's the risk you have to take. Hopefully, on the upside, you're going to bring in a new customer," said Lloyd.

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