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Express Breaks Out

NEW YORK — Express, the $2 billion division of Limited Brands, is finally stepping out. <br><br>After running its very first print ad campaign last year, Express has become a true believer in advertising and will embark on a reported $5 million...

NEW YORK — Express, the $2 billion division of Limited Brands, is finally stepping out.

After running its very first print ad campaign last year, Express has become a true believer in advertising and will embark on a reported $5 million to $10 million TV campaign for fall promoting its dual gender brand and denim fashions.

A series of nine TV ads will air on both network and cable TV stations, beginning July 29. It will be complemented by a national print ad campaign featuring the tag line, “Express Jeans…for women and men” running in August and September magazines.

Historically, Limited Brands has never been a strong proponent of advertising — except for Victoria’s Secret, which is the company’s biggest division and is a heavy print and TV advertiser. [According to CMR, a Taylor Nelson Sofres Co., Victoria’s Secret spent $65.6 million in media in 2001]. The Limited Stores division, for example, does no TV or print advertising, and Leslie Wexner, founder and chief executive officer of Limited Brands, has consistently said that he considers the Limited’s mall locations and windows to be the brands’ best advertisement.

Express is Limited Brands’ second-largest unit. Express (women’s) had net sales of $1.5 billion in 2001 and operates 667 stores in 46 states. Structure, which, as reported, will become Express for Men this fall, had net sales of $502 million in 2001 and operated 439 stores in 43 states.

The first Structure stores to make the changeover are in Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago. Separately, later this month and in early August, Express plans to open dual gender stores that will carry women’s and men’s merchandise under the Express label. The stores will have a joined denim area, where women and men can meet to shop for jeans.

Both the new TV and print ad campaigns reflect the evolution of Express — which was founded in 1980 as a young and trendy women’s apparel and accessories retailer — and the role of denim in the brand’s fashion offerings. The 30-second TV commercials were created by Limited Brands’ in-house creative services team. They feature Mini Anden and Karolina Kurkova — who are also featured in the print campaign.

In one TV spot called “Mini & Taber,” a young married couple talk about how they initially got together. They hadn’t seen each other in six months and then their paths kept crossing. She says to him, “You’re going to leave without kissing me?” And he replies, “I gave her the ultimate tease.” They both explain how he gave her “a little bit of lip” and a “tiny bit of tongue” and then disappeared. She then looks into the camera flabbergasted, with her mouth wide open.

In another, called “Group,” young, urban-edged women and men talk about their love for each other and how their relationships grew.

The commercials will air during episodes of prime-time TV shows such as “ER,” “West Wing,” “CSI,” “Dawson’s Creek,” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” In addition, they will be featured during “The Tonight Show,” “Conan O’Brien,” and “Saturday Night Live,” as well as during syndicated programs such as “Seinfeld” and “Just Shoot Me.” The cable placements will be on MTV, FX, Lifetime, E/Style and select programming on USA and TNT.

The print campaign was shot by Max Vadukul.

Asked why Express, which has previously avoided TV advertising, and only began print advertising a year ago, would launch a campaign now, Ed Razek, president and chief marketing officer of Limited Brand and Creative Services, said, “Our primary focus has been improving the fashion offerings and quality of the clothes. We have done that. Now we are leveraging the commercials to communicate that Express is a dual gender brand and one that offers the most complete collection of denim fashions for women and men.”