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WWD Milestones issue 03/23/2009

From a Thirties painting of a smiling couple on the beach or the 1967 image advising the fashionable set to wear “scarf and sunglasses for a successful haute couture combination” to Emporio Armani’s sunglass-donning owl in the brand’s 2003 campaign, Safilo’s ad strategy is wide-ranging and diversified.

This story first appeared in the March 23, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

For Safilo president Vittorio Tabacchi, it’s also no small feat.

“Advertising is a primary problem, and it entails prohibitive costs,” said Tabacchi, who noted that the company also needs to communicate with its distributors, which are Safilo’s direct clients. Safilo earmarks 10 percent of sales, or about 100 million euros, ($136 million at current exchange), for this budget, which includes advertising campaigns to promote designer-branded eyewear and the company’s own house labels.

The designer campaigns reflect the houses and their images, in line with their strategies. With their accessories business growing over the years, designers have increasingly focused on dedicated photographs of their handbags, footwear or eyewear. “If they decide to do an ad for a red bag, they may ask us to do red sunglasses,” said Tabacchi.

“The trend for designers is to work on brand extension,” said Stefania Saviolo, co-director of the master’s program in fashion, experience and design management at Milan’s Bocconi University. “The eyewear category often helps rejuvenate the image of a brand, make it more appealing to a new, different, noncore customer.”

In addition to a brand’s accessories-dedicated campaign, sunglasses are simply part of a total look, to best exemplify the label’s lifestyle.

Depending on the brand, the ad may be more aggressive, as seen in Diesel’s close-up of the face of a male model framed by the naked legs of two women, more contemporary as a “Matrix”- like Gisele Bündchen in Dior, or more plastic, as Stephanie Seymour posing for Valentino — her three-quarter profile and her hands drawing attention to the glasses.

Safilo allocates 4 or 5 percent of its communication budget on its company brands, such as Carrera and Oxydo, split among ad campaigns and sports sponsorships. Oxydo carries a social message and its ads focus on environmental issues. Cartoon overtones add a tongue-in-cheek humor to the images, with superheroes looking down on Earth from outer space in their effort to protect the world.

For Safilo, sports sponsorship means providing skiing, cycling and motorcycling teams with
glasses, goggles and helmets. Safilo sponsored the world motorcycle championship from 2001 to 2006 with its own Carrera team, and prior to that, with the Oxydo brand. In 2008, for the sixth year, Carrera supported the Petrarca rugby team. Carrera is the official supplier to the U.S., Italian and Austrian ski racing teams, among others, that are taking part in skiing’s World Cup. The brand also sponsors a local bobsled team, Bob Club Pieve di Cadore. A number of ski schools in the Alps employ Carrera products, as Safilo continues to invest in research and development. “A helmet or the right goggles can save your life,” said Tabacchi, mentioning a double-layered, highly protective, no-mist lens trademarked by Safilo. “When you go skiing or hike on a glacier, there is a different light, and we’re here to protect your eyes,” said Tabacchi. “It’s something that lasts for life and that can save a life.”