On Pico Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles, not far from where the 10 and 110 freeways intersect in a mass of concrete, the Gap 1969 denim studio was launched in August 2010, in a former cigar factory loft, in the heart of the city’s jeans infrastructure. This week, Gap Inc. begins providing an inside look at the operation — glimpses of the people, processes and products — in a much different type of fall campaign for the retailer.
Working with ad firm Ogilvy & Mather and culture and design Web site Cool Hunting, Gap created 30 short videos, each 20 to 90 seconds long. Some profile key members of the L.A. denim team, including women’s merchant Masako Konishi, men’s merchant Cale Margol and wash specialist Rob Crews. Each reveals a little bit about themselves, like men’s design director Jason Ferro mentioning how his background as a rebel skater, surfer and musician influences his work.
In another video, Crews suggests freezing jeans to rid them of germs and preserve the patina, rather than throwing them in the washer, which drains the indigo dye; others spotlight the ponte knit legging in black and olive, the gummy legging in black and khaki, or give a brief overview of the denim studio.
Gap has a history of using serious celebrity portraits as ads, or dancing models, and being a heavy advertiser on TV. But this season, there’s none of that. While not exactly cinema verité, the new campaign strives to humanize a big corporation by depicting one of its more creative sides and some young talent working in an informal setting.
“It’s quite a shift,” from past campaigns, said Seth Farbman, Gap’s global chief marketing officer. “This is the beginning of a longer-term strategy” that continues for the holiday season and into next year at least, and also continues to feature different operations and people at Gap. Farbman, who is based at Gap’s Global Creative Center in New York, declined to disclose which Gap operation will be highlighted next.
“Increasingly, people want to know the stories behind the products — who’s designing it, where it comes from,” Farbman said. “We recognize that we have to be more open. We had not done enough storytelling about what was new and different at the Gap.”
Farbman noted that the campaign is his first for Gap since joining the company five months ago and that it targets millennials, whose retail allegiances to the Gap in many cases have frayed. The campaign will be more visible in the social media and digital world, than in traditional media. “When you look at how millennials consume information, it is not in a simple, transactional way,” Farbman said.
The videos break this week on Web sites such as Cool Hunting and Refinery29 before blanketing the Internet next week with sponsored content on Refinery29, DailyCandy, FabSugar, Glam, Hulu, Pandora, LookBook, TrendCentral, Rolling Stone and Gap’s Facebook page. The videos will also be shown in the 28 other countries where Gap has stores, aside from the U.S. stores, where campaign images will decorate windows, and shoppers will be able to pull up the videos on their mobile devices.
Print ads are a mix of inserts and spreads in the September issues of Vogue, GQ, Glamour, InStyle, People StyleWatch, Lucky and Rolling Stone, with text written by journalist Ruth Barrett. Larger spreads will appear in Elle, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Nylon, Details, ESPN and Marie Claire. However, the print advertising campaign strays from the “real people” approach with images shot by Cass Bird of “real-ish” people in Gap 1969 pants, as Farbman said, most of whom are cast in street scenes depicting a few locations that these people could be from or seem to reflect, such as Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Portland, Ore., or Nakameguro, Japan.