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PVH Campaign to Help Save Ellis Island

Phillips-Van Heusen will debut the first ad campaign since it acquired Arrow three years ago—a campaign centered around efforts to help rebuild Ellis Island.

NEW YORK  — Phillips-Van Heusen is getting serious about its Arrow brand.

This fall, the company will debut the first ad campaign since it acquired the $1 billion label three years ago—a social awareness campaign centered around efforts to help rebuild Ellis Island, the facility in New York harbor that served as the entry point for 12 million immigrants from the 1890s until the middle of the 20th century.

Allen Sirkin, PVH president and COO, called the cause-related campaign a “major shift” for their advertising strategy. “Social responsibility is part of our corporate culture,” he said. “We thought [Ellis Island] was a fabulous cause and a fabulous opportunity for us and Arrow.”

The comprehensive media campaign will employ “famous and everyday Americans” recounting their families’ stories of immigration, struggle and success to raise awareness about the historical significance of the island.

It is estimated that 100 million Americans, or 40 percent of U.S. families, can trace their heritage through Ellis Island. Despite this landmark status, much of the facility has fallen into disrepair since it closed in 1954.

The Save Ellis Island campaign will include print, outdoor, television, radio, in-flight video and 60-second cinema spots. Notables, including Christian Slater, actor Richard Belzer, Carmine Giovianzzo, as well as four members of The Sopranos cast, are scheduled to star. Many of the personalities’ families immigrated through Ellis Island.

PVH also selected 30 everyday Americans to tell their families’ stories. “The real hero of the campaign is the American and the American experience,” said Hitesh Patel, vice-president of global communications for PVH. The cornerstone of the campaign, another first for the company, will be a Web site featuring an online forum where consumers can post short videos of their stories and connections to the island. A promotional version of the site, WeAreEllisIsland.org, will go live soon, with the complete site to launch this fall.

In addition, commercials for the Arrow brand, to land concurrently with the public-service announcements, will also highlight the Save Ellis Island effort. “The Arrow brand is 150 years old, and born and raised in America,” said Sirkin. As such, the connection between the brand’s heritage and Ellis Island was natural, he said. The Arrow ads will share content and messaging with the Save Ellis Island ads. Subjects in the Save Ellis Island ads will wear Arrow clothing.

PVH did not release costs, but said the campaign is Arrow’s most expensive in recent memory and is likely among the largest in the company’s history. PVH expects to run the ads for two years.

Sirkin said the company had been looking for ways to reestablish the brand’s equity with consumers. PVH became aware of the Ellis Island restoration project and contacted Save Ellis Island, the non-profit organization leading the effort, and quickly reached an agreement with the group and the National Park Service, which manages the island.

Before the ad campaign took shape, PVH donated $500,000 last year to help rebuild the Ferry Building, the island’s main facility, which was rededicated April 2 of this year.

Production of the upcoming campaign started at Ellis Island last week. Nearly $1 million was spent over three days shooting stills and TV spots, and getting footage for a not-for-profit documentary about the reconstruction. Included in the footage is PVH CEO Emanuel Chirico, whose grandfather immigrated through Ellis Island. Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz was also taped recounting his family’s passage through the facility. Famed photographer Richard Phibbs shot stills for the print and outdoor ads.

In addition to the advertising initiative, PVH is also tapping the private sector to raise funds for the rehabilitation of the island. Renovating the 30 dilapidated buildings will require an estimated $200 million. PVH has not yet set fundraising targets.