A|X Armani Looks to ‘Utopia’

A|X Armani splits marketing spend between print, online and urban outdoor ads with hedonistic bent.

An ad from the new campaign.

Spending more time at home? Saving instead of splurging? Taking staycations?

This story first appeared in the February 19, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Not if you’re visiting the getaway world of A|X Armani Exchange, where it’s time to indulge one’s hedonistic urges, according to the contrarian story A|X is marketing in “Utopia,” the brand’s spring campaign.

“Utopia” will mark some firsts for Armani Exchange: a media budget evenly split between print, online and urban outdoor ads, versus one formerly skewed 70 percent to print; an online magalogue premiering at armaniexchange.com, Facebook and in mobile media, and online videos of ad shoots, store events and more on A|X:TV, also at the Armani Exchange Web site.

In the world of A|X, the antidote for a winter case of the blues is to hit the beach — Myrtle Beach, S.C., under and around the Second Avenue boardwalk. “It’s a fun-loving, sensual brand, so for our spring campaign a beachy, outdoor environment [suggests] doing kids’ things, a hedonistic escape under a boardwalk,” said Tom Jarrold, senior vice president of global marketing and communications at A|X Armani Exchange.

A preview of the magalogue, “Image Book, Spring 2010,” can be viewed at armaniexchange.com by using a mouse to turn the pages, splashed with spring fashion. An expanded e-magalogue will launch in May.

A|X’s 2010 ad budget increased 15 percent versus 2009, and is up “significantly more than that in the first quarter,” Jarrold said, without providing details.

The concepts for A|X marketing campaigns are created in-house and approved by Giorgio Armani.

Armani put his personal stamp on the music on offer from Armani Exchange with his iMix Celebrity Playlist A|X, launched at iTunes in November. It is about two hours of music in 24 songs the designer associates with memorable moments in his fashion empire and the world of style. Each song listed is accompanied by a brief comment from Armani. For example, of the Black Eyed Peas’ song “I Gotta Feeling,” he said, “In 2007, Fergie attended an event to celebrate the opening of the Armani Tower in Ginza in Tokyo. She was incredibly charming and vibrant. This song represents her energy of optimism.”

The fashion designer’s iMix Celebrity Playlist, in the lifestyle section at armaniexchange.com, is a way for Armani to make a “deeper connection, real time, to his audience,” said Andy Murray, chief executive officer of Saatchi & Saatchi X. “Connecting at that level brings a sense of intimacy and trust to the brand.”

In contrast, Murray said, Starbucks’ two fledgling Seattle shops, 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea and Roy Street Coffee & Tea, which seek to impart local flavor to customers, are “getting killed in the blogosphere.” People know that in a sense it is “still Starbucks,” he observed, part of a mass marketer with revenue of $2.7 billion in its fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 27.

The outdoor campaign for A|X’s spring campaign will focus on a handful of urban locales: New York, Toronto, Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. In March, 15 video billboards will appear in West Los Angeles and back-lit newsstand billboards will go up around Manhattan. These will be followed in April by a billboard in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard and two billboards in lower Manhattan, one in the Meatpacking District, at 14th Street and Ninth Avenue, and another near the High Line park, at 18th Street and 10th Avenue.

Armani Exchange print ads are starting to appear in the March editions of magazines such as Lucky, Elle, GQ, Details, Teen Vogue, Out, InStyle, Men’s Health, Glamour and Nylon.