A still from the Gemfields' "Every Piece Unique" film

Oftentimes advertising in the hard luxury sector plays to the prestige factor­­ — incorporating images of yachts or beautiful people in far off locals. Gemfields, one of the world’s leading suppliers of colored gemstones, is taking a different approach with its integrated global campaign, instead aiming to raise consumer awareness of its responsible sourcing practices in Africa.

“We had a lot of healthy debates about what direction to take,” said Gemfields chief executive officer Sean Gilbertson. “This is a fundamental and riskier departure from the norm, instead of looking at the end of the chain, we are going all the way to the beginning to tell people a little bit more about where their gemstones come from. I think linking that to many of the elements that are fundamental to what Gemfields does will hopefully come to resonate with what consumers are beginning to care about today. In other words, where did my gemstone come from, how was it mined, how was it brought to market and what happens on the ground where the gemstones are extracted?”

The campaign film, titled “Every Piece Unique,” takes a lighthearted approach to the weighty issue by bringing pieces of art in a gallery to life through movement and dance. The characters ­— developed by MPC Creative using motion capture, VFX and CGI animation — each represent one of the core values of the mining company’s business: transparency, a founding principle of the mining company’s business; education, the company supports life-changing initiatives for the communities near its mines; conservation, Gemfields works with partners to protect Africa’s wildlife and biodiversity; health, they provide health care to areas around their mines, and livelihood, a nod to the local farming programs they foster. The characters’ dance at the base of a flowering Baobab tree, known in Africa as the “tree of life,” a symbol meant to embody “sustainability,” which is Gemfields’ overarching approach to how it communicates in and around its mining operations.

The two-year campaign launched Oct. 1 and employs an integrated approach across several channels, including social, digital and print. “I think the integrated approach is fundamental today, people consume information through so many channels,” the London-based ceo said. “I’m a big believer in the old-fashioned benchmark of getting the message in the consumer’s mind several times. So, by using many different channels you increase the chance of doing just that.”

The mining company, whose colored gemstones can be found in many of the industry’s top fine-jewelry collections, unveiled the campaign with a massive banner covering London department store Harrods and wrapping electric versions, featuring the characters from the film, around some of the city’s taxicabs. In New York, it re-created a life-size version of the campaign’s Rhino character, meant to reflect its work with conservation partners in Mozambique and Zambia, where Gemfields’ mines are based. Gilbertson was coy about future activations and installations noting, “we still have many layers to gradually peel away to continue to tell the campaign’s story.”

Further, he noted, “I would describe part of the message being that every colored gemstone is wholly distinctive, I do mean this genuinely. That resonates with pieces of original art, which is why we set this in a gallery scene. And those individual personalities and characteristics also echo individual people. Unique gemstones, for unique people,” he said.

The campaign comes at a time when lab-grown gemstones are beginning to gain traction as a disruptor to the mature gemstone industry, but ultimately Gilbertson doesn’t see it as a risk to the mining sector. “There are a lot of people who are trying to go down the root of laboratory-grown stones, thinking that if gemstones are manufactured in laboratories then ‘just think about how much better the world would be because you’d not have all these problems associated with mining in Africa,’” he commented.

“On the contrary, I think that is one of the most harmful and damaging things we could do to any country in Africa because we would be depriving people of the revenue and employment that comes from gemstones. If we suddenly stop that, we are going to have much bigger problems.”

While advertising initiatives spur a lot of internal dialogue about ROI, analytics and costs, Gilbertson was candid when speaking about how he measures the overall campaign.

“I’m going deviate from the marketing and communications message that might talk about online awareness or clicks, coverage in magazines or newspapers. All that is important, but I measure in a very different way,” he said. “If we can help consumers to understand some of the complexities of bringing these gemstones to market, and very importantly the positive lasting contribution that their purchases of African colored gemstones can make to the African continent, then I will consider this campaign as having been successful.”

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