With some people, particularly young adults and teens, no longer wearing a watch — instead checking the time on their iPhones, BlackBerrys or other digital pals — Omega has been marketing the thrill of adventure and pioneering spirit it envisions in its luxury timepieces.
This story first appeared in the November 11, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In the spring and summer, Omega ads associated the Speedmaster watch it introduced in 1957 with the Apollo 11 astronauts who wore it 40 years ago while taking man’s first walk on the lunar surface and President John F. Kennedy’s goal “to go to the moon.” The idea was for feelings of pioneering adventure to rub off on the brand and its customers, said Stephen Urquhart, president and chief executive officer of Omega.
Omega is taking a different route in its Monocle campaign, launched in October, pairing celebrity endorsers with a 10th anniversary, retro-flavored salute to its Co-Axial technology. It’s not a sexy strike for the ads to highlight the watch movement’s “revolutionary escapement and the other tiny components, which make up Omega’s Co-Axial calibres.” But in duets with a range of celebrities using watchmakers’ loupes — perhaps symbolizing their perception of a watch’s value — the technology is humanized.
Brand ambassadors such as Cindy Crawford, Michael Phelps, Nicole Kidman, George Clooney and Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin are portrayed in close-ups, beside enlarged images of the Co-Axial movement, with story lines tying their lifestyles to their Omega watches and the Co-Axial function of making watches more accurate by reducing the friction among their inner works.
“The Beauty Is in the Detail,” reads the headline in the Cindy Crawford version of the new ads, which appeared Tuesday in The New York Times.
Other headlines in the current campaign include the Aldrin take: “It’s Not Rocket Science. But It’s Close.” And Formula One racer Michael Schumacher’s “When Faster Isn’t Better.”
WWD: Did Omega’s print ads this summer for the Omega watch worn by both President Kennedy and the NASA astronauts who landed on the moon in 1969 represent an appeal to people’s emotions? To their subconscious desires?
Stephen Urquhart: The print ads have certainly appealed to people’s emotions. This year, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, it made sense for Omega — whose Speedmasters were part of that and every other NASA mission since 1963 — to recall the spirit and adventure of Apollo. And it would be impossible to tell the story of NASA’s lunar missions without referring to President Kennedy’s challenge in 1961 to reach the moon before that decade was finished. We were delighted that the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation allowed us to use those images, which were a complement to the rest of our campaign.
WWD: If the Speedmaster print ad is intended to convey an appeal to subconscious desires, how so?
S.U.: In this era of more negative than positive news, a strong message which stimulates an emotional response is a definite plus. The ads don’t only attempt to appeal to subconscious desires, but also to remind ourselves of what can be accomplished when we unite behind common goals. One of Omega’s defining values is our pioneering spirit, and there is no better common expression of this ideal than the lunar landings.
WWD: What was the Speedmaster campaign’s genesis?
S.U.: There is no doubt that the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing attracted more attention than any of the previous ones. There seems to be a renewed interest in piloted space travel, to the moon and beyond. Our campaign was organized around the Apollo 11 landing. In addition to the print ads, we also organized events with Buzz Aldrin in a number of major cities around the world. Although July has passed, there is no reason that its message can’t remain current and relevant throughout the year and beyond. For Omega, it marked more than just an anniversary — it underscored our participation in one of the greatest achievements in the 20th century.
WWD: Has Omega done any other marketing campaigns or ads that are aimed at people’s subconscious desires, or does it have plans to? What do you think of such an approach?
S.U.: Ideally, all marketing campaigns should reach people’s subconscious desires. It’s not always possible to do. We just launched a new campaign in the world’s leading newspapers celebrating 10 years since the release of our Co-Axial technology, which has been a breakthrough in watchmaking. We have used our brand ambassadors in the campaign to deliver the message, and their participation means that the ads should therefore work on a subconscious level.
WWD: What are Omega’s marketing campaign plans through yearend?
S.U.: The marketing campaign in the first half of this year was focused on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing; the second half will be based on the Co-Axial campaign and focuses on our [watch escapement] technology. We will continue to build other campaigns around our core messages of innovative technology, international sports timekeeping and our pioneering spirit.