DIESEL’S AFRICAN DREAM
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — In its spring-summer ad campaign, Diesel views a world that’s gone topsy-turvy.
The Italian sportswear company — which is no stranger to provocative advertising — has developed a series of ads that hypothesize what would happen if Africa were the center of the world and lived the rich, spoiled, superficial life of Westerners, with a booming economy, year-round partying in a Hamptons-like atmosphere and no famine, drought, war or disease.
The ads, shot by Ellen Von Unwerth, show a new Africa, populated by happy, successful, wealthy, young jet-set blacks living glamorously, enjoying limos, caviar and champagne; interspersed with clippings from a bogus newspaper, The Daily African, that discusses the hardships of the world’s poorest regions, such as Italy, Switzerland, Illinois and Massachusetts, and contains articles about Europe Aid and AmeriAid.
Among the headlines are “Africa Agrees on Financial Aid to America,” “Long limos. Long queues. Stylish Commuting Causes Traffic Gridlock in Mombasa,” and “European Developing Countries Targeted by African Tobacco Industry.”
“We work with irony and want to inspire people and respect them, without being part of a political statement,” said Maurizio Marchiori, international advertising and communication director of Diesel SpA, in an interview here this week.
He said people always ask what they can do for Africa, but he wanted to explore what Africans can do for other nations. He wanted to imagine that “the rest of the world is Third World.” For example, he said, suppose America is a jungle, Scotland doesn’t have blankets and there’s no food in London.
Marchiori also said the campaign ties in with the season’s Collection theme, “Le Chic Afreak,” a mix of tribal symbols and Western kitsch detailing and inspiration.
In addition, Diesel has printed one million copies of a sham magazine called “Lifestyle,” positioned as the weekend supplement to The Daily African and designed to raise awareness and funds for suffering Europe. It also contains party pages typically found in a celebrity gossip magazine, and ads for a fake Red Cross-type organization. The magazine is being distributed at Diesel’s retail stores and wholesale accounts.
There is no disclaimer on the magazine noting that the magazine is totally fictitious because Marchiori doesn’t believe it’s necessary.
“You need to take this risk,” he said. “It’s so far away from reality.”
According to the company, “The campaign is not a political or racial statement, but rather a different viewpoint on our real world’s madness and unbalance; a human comment, a twist on stereotypes, to spotlight a contemporary, long-lasting situation.”
The ads were created by Diesel’s in-house creative team, in conjunction with Paradiset DDB. However, Marchiori noted that the company is in the process of reviewing its account and is considering five advertising agencies. Paradiset, which has done Diesel’s advertising for 10 years, was invited to participate, but declined. Marchiori said he expects to name a new agency early this month.
Diesel plans to spend $15 million this spring, slightly up from a year ago, on the global campaign. The ads appear in the February issues of Nylon, Index and Flaunt, and will run in March in such magazines as Marie Claire, Jane, Nylon, Interview, Rolling Stone, Paper, Flaunt, Index and Big.
Diesel has traveled untraditional roads in previous campaigns. Last year, it invented a 22-year-old pop Polish country singer as its spokesmodel; it has also featured four rosary-clutching nuns wearing jeans and habits, an elderly woman in jeans groping an elderly man asleep on his cane and two burly sailors locked in a passionate embrace.
Diesel, which is distributed to 80 countries, generates $350 million in annual volume.