ESPRIT ADS: CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — Esprit is at it again.
A new spring campaign that broke in April magazines, and outdoor here and in its hometown of San Francisco, aims to return the brand to its roots.
A powerhouse in junior sportswear in the late Seventies and early Eighties, Esprit has struggled with its identity ever since.
According to Peter Arnell, chairman of AG Worldwide, which was awarded the Esprit account last November, “The mandate was, “Could we put new life into it?”
Arnell said he was intrigued by Esprit’s “design and communications” heritage and wanted to play off that. In the early years, Esprit — founded in 1968 — was at the forefront of the advertising world with its bold, colorful graphics, ad campaigns showing young, highly spirited people, in-store shops and innovative catalogs. That creative work was spearheaded by company co-founder Doug Tompkins and created by Oliviero Toscani.
“We sought to capture the heritage and emotions of our San Francisco roots, which resonate with our 25-to-30-year-old consumers, combined with our vision of the ‘new Esprit,’ ” said Joseph E. Heid, chairman and chief executive officer of Esprit, noting that the campaign has been designed to appeal to its 19-to-25-year-old target customer, with ages 16 to 35 as its expanded target. “We’re the only lifestyle brand which celebrates California living and the individuality of those who wear our apparel and accessories.”
Esprit plans to spend $10 million this year on its advertising.
The new campaign features San Francisco landmarks and colorful Esprit graphics. Taxi tops, for example, carry the words “Imagine Esprit,” “Love Esprit,” “Live Esprit,” “Peace, Love, Esprit,” and “Imagine True Love…Esprit.”
“It’s stripes, branding and color, color, color. We’re going to the origins and contemporizing it,” said Arnell, who shot the campaign on the West Coast.
Print ads carry phrases like “Live, Esprit,” and “Love, Esprit,” and show an attractive woman juxtaposed with San Francisco landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge.
“The point was to be very natural,” added Arnell. “Everything else [other campaigns] is overt sex. We’re trying to do a campaign that’s representative of the spirit and aspiration of the real mainstream customer.”
The ads appear in April editions of Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair, In Style, Cosmopolitan and Teen Vogue. The outdoor campaign includes telephone kiosks, snipes, taxi tops, billboards and bus shelters