COTTON INC. MOLDS PLAYFUL IMAGE
Byline: Scott Malone
NEW YORK — Cotton Incorporated’s new models have feet of clay. Of course, that’s not so surprising when one notices they have eyes, noses and hair of clay as well.
The fiber-promotion organization on Wednesday plans to introduce a new trade advertising campaign starring six foot-high silicone figures. Created by Ogilvy & Mather, Cotton Inc.’s longtime ad agency, the four-color ads feature clay figures in indoor and outdoor settings wearing all-cotton clothes.
Each ad carries a one-word tag line intended to evoke a property of cotton, along with a factoid about the fiber’s market share. An ad showing a female model surrounded by shopping bags announces “Demand” and points out that 85 percent of women shoppers check fiber content before buying a garment, and another bears the word “Casual” and says the sales of women’s business-casual clothing are up 25 percent over the past five years.
Cotton Inc. officials explained that they approached Ogilvy last spring, looking for a more eye-catching style for their trade ads. Feeling that photos of real people and drawings were a little too familiar, they ventured into the same medium that brought the world the California Raisins and “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year.”
“Trade advertising is really at the foundation of what this group, Cotton Inc., is,” said Ric Hendee, vice president of marketing services, in a meeting Thursday at the organization’s offices here. “If we aren’t communicating that the consumer continues to demand cotton products, then the manufacturers and retailers aren’t going to care about it.”
Michael Paterson, art director at Ogilvy, who developed the ads along with copywriter Christopher Skurat, said that working in silicone posed some interesting challenges.
“It was new to everybody. You’ve never seen designer clothing t÷hat small,” Paterson said. “There is Barbie clothing out there, but we didn’t want to look like that.”
The model’s outfits were custom-sewn from all-cotton fabrics by a stylist the agency hired. The models themselves, silicone molds around articulated steel frames, were produced by MTV Studios, which developed an expertise in clay for its “Celebrity Deathmatch” television programs.
Designing real-looking clothes to fit a 12- to 15-inch-tall body posed some unique challenges, Paterson acknowledged.
“When you take some of the fabrics down to that size, drape becomes an issue,” he said. The designer had to use very light weights of denim to produce realistic-looking jackets and jeans, for instance.
Paterson added that the agency developed detailed biographies for each of the six characters in the ads. One is an Upper East Side “shopoholic,” in his words, while another works for a fictional West Coast Internet company — fictional Internet companies enjoy more financial stability that the real kind these days.
Ira Livingston, senior vice president of consumer marketing for Cotton Inc., said the organization this year plans to spend about $1 million on trade advertising. The new ads are scheduled to appear in this newspaper and other papers owned by Fairchild Publications, WWD’s parent company, as well as in other textile trade publications, including Southern Textile News and ATI.
He also noted that this campaign is not intended to replace the company’s longstanding “Fabric of Our Lives” consumer ads. While the company might consider integrating these characters into consumer advertisements at some point in the future, he said Cotton Inc. has no plans to do so this year.
The organization spends about $18 million a year on its television campaign.