NEW YORK--From Kirshenbaum & Bond, one has come to expect advertising that's in-your-face, funny and sometimes outrageous. But when K&B was awarded the Van Cleef & Arpels fine jewelry account last January, it was obvious that brash was not the way to go. Before K&B took on the account, it made sure that Van Cleef was willing to allow the agency to embark on an extensive market research project to accurately position the luxury brand. With $165 million in billings, K&B is no stranger to the luxury goods market and counts among its clients Moet & Chandon, Coach, Mark Cross, Citibank and Bear Stearns, as well as Snapple and Keds. "We turn down a lot of fashion clients because they don't want to do research and apply marketing techniques," said Richard Kirshenbaum, executive creative director of K&B, in an interview here. "The garment industry doesn't really get it. This is how we do a client, whether it's a fashion client or a wine client." Kirshenbaum said the goal of the Van Cleef & Arpels campaign was to appeal to the already-established customer base, as well as to bring in new customers. Sources estimate Van Cleef's 1994 ad budget was $3 million, significantly higher than a year ago. "We had to figure out how to dust off an old brand and make it accessible," he said. Van Cleef & Arpels, founded in 1906, is based at 22 Place Vendome in Paris. Its New York store is at 744 Fifth Ave., next door to Bergdorf Goodman. The company's fine jewelry ranges from $1,000 to several million dollars. "Non-Van Cleef customers considered us to be a stodgy retailer that sold gala jewelry," said Muffy Potter, director of media and PR at Van Cleef & Arpels. "Van Cleef really has a lot of wearable pieces that are reasonably priced. Women spend money to buy expensive suits and will drop between $2,000 and $5,000 on a piece of jewelry." She also said people aren't aware that they can purchase jewelry in the Boutique line starting at $1,500. The problem Van Cleef had was an aging customer base. For those customers who haven't been inside their stores, the image they conjure up is one of a huge lock outside the door, said Kirshenbaum. "One of the interesting things about the assignment was how to do the research with people who don't go to focus groups ," he said. Allison Todd, vice president and senior brand planner at K&B, said she conducted confidential interviews with dozens of people, including a TV star, the head of a Detroit-based company, two gubernatorial candidates, heiresses and socialites at cocktail parties and private parties in Bel Air, Calif. "You're talking to all affluent people. We wanted to explore the emotions around the purchase--and giving--of fine jewelry. It's a very intimate gift, usually from a man to his wife and usually for a big occasion," said Todd. The firm concluded that while Van Cleef will always be an elite product, it needed to connect more with the customer with advertising that was intimate, respectful and flattering to both men and women. The double-page ads, which break in October, feature a contemporary-looking model with the tagline: "She is the woman men always wanted to run away with. You did." Another version reads: "She is the first woman who refused to take your phone calls." The image campaign will appear in Town & Country, Mirabella, W and Vanity Fair.
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