A CROCODILE TALE

Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — Mr. and Ms. Lacoste are going to explain “their world of crocodile style” in a new multi-million-dollar ad campaign from the company that put the polo shirt on the map.
The campaign, a considerable spending increase over prior years, is a key part of an attempt by the $750 million Lacoste to rebuild its image in the U.S. as a status symbol for the upscale crowd. It’ll even outprice Polo’s polo — Ralph Lauren retails his at $49, while Lacoste sells for $69. A far cry from the crocodile’s discount days of two years ago.
Using models Helena Christensen and Hoyt Richards, Laspata/DeCaro, Lacoste’s agency, has created a witty 16-page insert that will be distributed with The New York Times Friday, May 10, and will run as multiple pages and spreads in such magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Elle, GQ, W, Cigar Aficionado, the Wine Spectator, Ocean Drive and Boca Raton Magazine throughout May, June and July.
And for a relatively new big spender, the company was able to muscle some key positioning: Many of the ads will appear as four-page gatefolds off the front cover. The ads will also appear on bus shelters.
Photographed by Rocco Laspata, the campaign shows the various activities of Mr. and Ms. Lacoste, such as boating, fishing, playing tennis or golf, along with humorous copy. For example, one spread [see accompanying photo] reads: “While Mr. Lacoste fancies himself an Ace navigator, Ms. Lacoste was quite the catch.”
Another says, “Mr. Lacoste surrounds himself with colorful friends,” and depicts Richards surrounded by people wearing brightly colored cartoonish animal masks.
“The message we’ll send out there will say exactly what we want about the brand,” said Ari L. Hoffman, president of Lacoste. “That it’s a modern brand that’s clean and pure, and it’s a brand for happy moments in your life.”
The campaign marks a major dollar increase from last year, and a departure from the still life approach of prior seasons that showed the basic pique polo in numerous colors.
Lacoste bought the trademark back from Crystal Brands three years ago, when the brand had bottomed out in the U.S. at the mass market level. “Two years ago, the only place you could find it was at a discounter,” said Hoffman, who noted that the upscale approach is “the only strategy we know.”
The company waited over a year before re-launching the Lacoste line here as a more exclusive label. Made entirely in France, Lacoste is available in stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale’s.
“We have two kinds of customers, the traditional customer who grew up with it — it was the uniform for the baby boomer — and a hip, cool customer,” Hoffman said. “Last year, the first magazines to feature it were Details, Interview, The Source, Mademoiselle and Seventeen. They showed it in a hip, sexy way.”
The timing of the campaign coincides with Lacoste’s busiest season, as well as the opening of four freestanding shops this spring in Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, N.J., the Westchester Mall in White Plains, N.Y., King of Prussia Mall, King of Prussia, Pa., and Honolulu. It already has boutiques in Palm Beach and Bal Harbour, Fla.

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