BENETTON AND EXTE’S VIRTUAL APPROACH

Byline: Samantha Conti

MILAN — A new generation of creative minds — and images — is changing the face of Italian advertising.
At Benetton, the 27-year-old British photographer James Mollison makes his debut with a spring-summer ad campaign that blends photos with computer graphics. Mollison, a graduate of Fabrica, Benetton’s in-house communications think tank, replaced Oliviero Toscani as the photographer for the ad campaigns.
“I know this is a risk, and Toscani’s shoes will be difficult to fill,” said Mollison, who worked under Toscani while at Fabrica. “But I’m thinking of this as a learning process, and right now, I’m focusing on shooting the clothes. You can’t copy Oliviero; there’s only one of him,” he told WWD late last year.
The latest ad campaign is shot against a white background — a Toscani innovation — and features the familiar cast of multicultural models draped in eye-popping Benetton colors. There is more movement and dynamism than in the past, and the colors pack more punch.
All the photographs were reelaborated on the computer. “It was a real act of teamwork this season,” said Mollison. “I think the images are a combination of sensibility, taste and technology.” The ad campaign is set to break in mid-February on billboards and in magazines in more than 100 countries.
Benetton spends 4 percent of its sales on advertising, which includes print and billboard campaigns, the Fabrica operation, Colors magazine, catalogs and press office expenses. In 1999, Benetton’s communications budget was $80 million. As reported, sales this year are expected to top $1.8 billion.
Exte, IT Holding’s in-house line designed by Antonio Berardi, took the digital route this season and created its entire ad campaign on the computer screen. No photographers, no models, no location or studio.
Under the direction of the ad campaign’s designer, Francesca De Cherubini, computer artists created their own Exte models and landscape, drawing from photograph data banks and arranging them at will.
“We thought it would be interesting to create a woman with an Exte DNA,” said a spokeswoman for the company. “Besides, a ‘virtual’ feeling is in the air, and it doesn’t just apply to computers, it applies to images too.”
The spokeswoman said the ad campaign cost from $175,000 to $200,000 — far less than what the company would spend on an average one. The ad campaign took about 100 hours to put together “and we didn’t have to deal with all the models’ tantrums,” the spokeswoman said.
The ad campaign will appear in publications such as L’Uomo Vogue, GQ, Flaunt and Surface.

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