IN THE AGE OF PERIL, A NEW MOOD PREVAILS IN FASHION ADVERTISING
Byline: Lisa Lockwood / With contributions from Miles Socha, Paris / Luisa Zargani, Milan
NEW YORK — In the wake of the terrorist attacks and anti-Taliban air strikes, fashion firms have adjusted their thinking, planning spring ad campaigns that are sensitive to the country’s sober mood.
With the consumer’s psyche particularly fragile, ad executives are faced with the challenge of selling to a woman whose interest in spending, much less self-indulgence, could be on a long-term downswing.
“Now, we need another kind of shock in a positive way,” said Karl Lagerfeld, referring to recent campaigns that depict the “nouveau riche” showing off their wealth or overtly sexy images. “It should just be about modern life…and done by instincts and not marketing.”
In general, advertisers believe it’s imperative to stay true to their brand — Tommy Hilfiger’s patriotic tone or Kenneth Cole’s socially conscious messages will continue. Donna Karan International will play on its heritage, which is New York City, and do even more photography here; Ralph Lauren will continue to emphasize American values and the good life, and Calvin Klein and Diesel intend to stay as provocative as ever.
Most advertisers said this isn’t the time for dark and gloomy, but rather more upbeat, positive messages. Recent ad campaigns exploring porno-chic, sexually aggressive nudity and sadomasochism will be a much tougher sell.
“I think the message has to be extremely positive,” said Fabien Baron, owner of Baron & Baron, the ad agency here that handles clients such as Burberry, Michael Kors and Hugo Boss.
“Everybody wants the mood to be pretty positive, and everybody will be extremely careful not to have anything controversial or gloomy or dark. Everything will have to change. The fashion industry will overreact and then we’ll go back,” he predicted.
But will overly sexy images fly in light of the catastrophe?
“Sexy is not negative,” said Baron. “Ads showing no emotion, or depression, will be more of a problem than something sexy. Being gloomy or looking down won’t work.”
Baron believes that spring campaigns will be “very innocent and very fresh and very light and very American.” He noted that American looks are back and everybody will go out and do them. Right after the attacks, he pointed out, certain shoots were pushed back and canceled and nobody wanted to work. “After that, the things we shot were extremely careful because we’re sensitive. Everyone’s been shocked and is sensitive.”
Baron predicts stores will have a rough season, and that will trickle down to designers and eventually to advertising. “Designers won’t have the budgets to advertise. Next season will be a hard one,” he said.
“It’s hard to go into a store. They [consumers] are not in the mood. Advertising is the only way to reach people,” added Baron. “Everyone will be cautious. Everything is in limbo, the stock market went down so much, and when you touch people’s sense of security…We’re in a transition period, and it’s never good.”
Baron also stressed that there’s no question photography will change. “They’ve been really shocked. It’s a more emotional, and human and gentle and more sensitive time.” (See related story, page 8.)
“Everybody’s looking at casting and locations with a critical eye,” acknowledged Doug Lloyd, owner of Lloyd & Co., which does advertising for Gucci, Jill Stuart, Anne Klein and Cole Haan, among others. He said his clients are evaluating all production and media costs. Some clients will keep their budgets flat for spring, others have revised their budgets downward, he said. “I think people will be questioning things that are too risque, to see if the tone is correct.”
Lloyd said high-fashion clients aren’t likely to show people smiling, running and laughing anytime soon. “I’m not going to make a brand look schizophrenic. Bridge-oriented clients are more inclined to be sensitive to that. The happiness quotient may be turned up a bit.”
And even though consumers may not be in the mood to shop right now, Lloyd said he’s working on creative that will appear six months from now. “People will still be buying magazines to inspire them and will have to have something to put on their backs.”
Most European designers have not yet finalized plans for their spring 2002 advertising, having just staged their runway shows.
Christian Dior, whose recent ad campaigns featured dirt-covered models fixing an old Cadillac and ones flying through the air like cartoon Ninja characters, won’t shoot its spring 2002 campaign until next week. But creative director John Galliano said his intentions are always the same. “We try to promote optimism and positivity, and that’s what our collections are about,” he said.
Gucci and Gianfranco Ferre said they were not going to change the concepts of their ad campaigns. Gucci, however, said the day after the Sept. 11 attacks, some newspaper and outdoor ads were canceled, as the company felt that they were inappropriate at that time. “Gucci’s advertising campaigns will continue to be in line with the mood of the consumer,” said a company spokeswoman.
A Ferre spokeswoman said the company won’t have to “dramatically change” its ad campaign. “Our elegance is certainly focused on luxury and exclusivity, but is also very positive and reassuring. We will emphasize these features, without giving up the poetry and magic appeal that fashion must have even in times of reflection.”
Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. doesn’t plan any changes in its spring ad campaign, and Ralph Lauren believes the company’s advertising has always reflected American values.
“If you look at my ads, they’ve always been what I stand for. I was doing the flag and America and it didn’t come out of a war,” said Lauren, chairman and chief executive officer. Immediately after the terrorist attacks, Lauren set up an American Heroes Fund, taking out ads in several newspapers, saying it would donate $4 million to various disaster relief charities and would match its employees’ donations.
Another company staying the course is Kenneth Cole Productions, whose heritage lies in socially conscious marketing.
“Our messages are always socially relevant. We’re not going to change our approach,” said Lori Wagner, senior vice president of marketing and advertising at Kenneth Cole. “We hope to identify issues closest to our customers and address them. Shopping is not on their mind. If the apprehension is ‘Why purchase now?’ then we’ll address that.”
The day after the terrorist attacks, Cole installed new posters in its store windows that read: “What we stand for is more important than what we stand in.” This slogan had been used previously, but the company changed the icon from a shoelace in the shape of an AIDS ribbon to a flag.
Since its ads are mostly type driven, Wagner said the company can react quickly. “Our copy message is definitely a part of who we are. We’re also an apparel company, so we have to make commitments earlier.” The company will have a new ad campaign for February, but will also do outdoor ads for November and December that will be “socially relevant.”
Maurizio Marchiori, vice president, marketing at Diesel USA, said that, as reported, for the first time in 12 years, the company had to change its ad plans — removing the words “Save Yourself” and replacing them with “Stay Young” — in its current fall ad campaign. It also removed some images, such as showing people using oxygen masks.
“Concerning the spring ads, we don’t want to have any compromise,” he said. “We want to express ourselves the best we can.” He said the Diesel ad campaign won’t reflect the tragedy and would keep its irony. “We want to maintain the way we are, and use the irony and try to learn something and be much more positive in the next season. We won’t change our identity; we want to stay who we are.” Marchiori said the ad campaign would be shot Oct 27 to Nov. 5. He plans to increase the ad budget next year, as well.
Neil Kraft, president and ceo of Kraftworks, an ad agency here, said: “I’ve been reading in the paper that people are saying ‘business as usual,’ but I find it hard to tell my clients that we should show smiling, happy people. Nor can we all be Kenneth Cole and do socially conscious campaigns — and we’ve learned from Benetton. But smiling, happy people on their own seems wrong. I don’t want to see someone in a military uniform or gaunt models. I’m more comfortable with serious, as opposed to people laughing and playing around.”
For his client Aldo Shoes, he plans to propose a much more serious ad campaign in terms of the tone, distinct from previous plans that show smiling people. He said one also has to be careful not to capitalize on the tragedy and doesn’t believe companies should advertise their charity. “They should do it personally,” he said.
Trey Laird, executive vice president, advertising and creative services of Donna Karan International, said: “We’re trying to readdress and reassess what we’re planning to it, and do it in a more concerted way.
“DKNY is going to be more New York than ever. We’re going to really stand behind New York as our last name. It’s the total and complete inspiration and heritage of our brand,” said Laird.
He said the company is trying to keep things fresh and “110 percent will be about New York, our support of the city and our love of the city. We still feel it has more energy than anyplace in the world, more so than ever.”
Although the company’s travels have been well documented, it plans to shoot both the Collection and DKNY ad campaigns in New York. The company isn’t using Jeremy Irons for its spring campaign and is currently casting for a new male lead.
For the Collection ad campaign, Laird still plans to feature the “sexuality and strength that Donna stands for.” He pointed out that the company will try to keep production expenses down and keep the budget as tight as possible.
Laird said he hopes to have some new ads for the end of the year. “We don’t want to wait until spring. We have a responsibility as a New York-based company, and New York is our name. We need to be leaders and do the right thing. Our goal is to try and do it before spring.”
Sydney Bachman, senior vice president and global creative director of advertising and fashion for Calvin Klein Inc., said provocation is still the mandate for its clothing and fragrance ad campaigns. “We have all been affected by [the terrorist tragedy] and have had conversations about it. Our advertising will be more provocative and more extreme than before. This is who we are. I can’t speak for other designers, but for us, we’d like to present advertising that catches people’s attention immediately, and react one way or the other. It’s not about selling a particular jacket or shoe. For us, that means probably being more provocative.”
Originally, Klein planned to shoot its new Eternity ad campaign in Telluride or Jackson Hole, Wyo., but instead shot closer to home in Rumson, N.J.
Donny Deutsch, president and ceo of Deutsch Inc., which handles the Tommy Hilfiger Corp. account, said: “My client Tommy is positioned so right. They’re about optimism. Tommy’s imagery and models with smiling faces are just right for the times.”
Peter Connolly, president of marketing and communications at Tommy Hilfiger Corp., said the concept for its spring ad campaign was decided before the terrorist attacks, and they’re not making any changes. “We had concept boards developed in August. We’re in the right position.
“It’s the same American positioning, all Americana. That’s our core heritage. Preppy American,” said Connolly.
The spring ad concept is being shot by Carter Smith and features Carmen Kass, Liya, Frankie Rayder, Jason Shaw and Jason Lewis. “Whether we do TV or we do just print will be decided next month. We’re not letting anything that’s happened dictate what we do,” said Connolly.
Ellis Verdi, president of DeVito/Verdi, the ad agency here, said the terrorist attacks “will have some sea changes in consumer behavior. We’re headed to a more ‘business as usual,’ it’s just further away. But there will be some sea change, with the emphasis on security and staying at home and products more suitable for a comfortable and entertaining lifestyle.”
Verdi said it’s a matter of how long it takes to get back to normal. “I see no reason not to be smart and witty. Humor comes from truth, and we’re living in a world just as true as ever.
“Everyone can’t do an all-type ad, or condolences to the firemen….We don’t need another letter from the chairman. I do think that’s the challenge, and it’s no different than it ever was. You have to figure out how to capture attention and do it in a way that’s smart and witty. The wit is required because you have to remember the idea. You still have to be touched by the idea. A boring page is still irrelevant, even in these times.”
Verdi noted that all of its clients have, in some way, shape or form, changed their media plan or placement. “You don’t want to take advantage of the event in order to spruce up your advertising. Some people come off too heavy-handed. Ads that play off the event seem wrong.”
Verdi said there’s an opportunity for a newspaper or magazine, or a company to coin a term and delineate the new purchase cycle. “Someone’s going to take on a point of view that will be fitting and demonstrable. This will encapsulate how we feel. What does the new world look like?”
Richard Kirshenbaum, partner and creative director of Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners, an ad agency here, said: “The most important thing right now — the hot button — is appropriateness. You have to engage the mood in the spring. People understand that getting back to a sense of normalcy is important, not only for the economy, but for people’s mind-sets. Otherwise, they [terrorists] have won.”
Kirshenbaum said that advertising might change this spring, but it certainly won’t cease. “Will advertising and marketing stop? No. It’s still one of the only ways brands can speak to their consumers. It may take more direct selling and outdoor,” he said. “Consumers almost view advertising and marketing messages as a respite to what’s going on. You almost want to see a situation comedy and view a hair commercial.”
Mike Toth, president and ceo of Toth Brand Imaging, Concord, Mass., observed: “My philosophy is you have to be who you are and be yourself. People are being very careful about doing something that smacks of taking advantage of the situation.
“To wake people up out of their daze and confusion will happen naturally. I don’t think an advertiser can change it,” he added, noting that people are mourning and are frightened, and it’s not an advertiser’s job to change how they feel. “My clients are just being ultracautious right now. Everyone’s spending less.”
Charles DeCaro, partner in Laspata/DeCaro, an ad agency here, concurs that it’s imperative to maintain a brand’s identity. “My initial knee-jerk reaction is to plaster ‘I Love New York’ and American flags on the images, but I still maintain its important to be true to a brand’s identity.” He said his firm has not been supporters of “doom and gloom” in advertising, and this is particularly not the climate for that kind of message.
He said for its Judith Leiber handbag account: “We’ll continue with the whimsical approach we established for the fall campaign. It’ll be very vibrant and colorful and will once again feature Karen Elson. The environment will be reminiscent of an enchanted garden. It will be uplifting and lighthearted in its approach, which is perfect for the times.”
“Everyone is taking the government’s call to arms and supporting the economy. Even in times of war, people get married, they go to the theater and life goes on. It’s important to stimulate this economy,” added DeCaro. “There’s no better time to be frivolous than now. If it’s done in the proper manner, it won’t turn off the consumer. People don’t want to be constantly barraged by news. It seems so sensational and patronizing. We need to address it, but don’t have to be constantly reminded of it. I think you need to take a lighthearted approach and be more user friendly and less somber.”