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Less-than-subtle sexual suggestion and innuendo have been the defining characteristics of Diesel ad campaigns for the last several years. For the summer 2007 campaign, however, sex will give way to a bit of social commentary.

Diesel’s creative team, headed by creative director Wilbert Das, partnered with Paris agency Gossip to develop a campaign that takes the idea of global warming to the extreme. Shot by Terry Richardson, the ads feature scenes of everyday life in a world that has been drastically altered by rising temperatures and seas. A couple rests on a rooftop in New York City, which is almost completely underwater. The pigeons of Venice’s St. Mark’s Square have been replaced by parrots, Finland has become a desert and palm trees and lizards surround the Eiffel Tower.

Dan Barton, vice president of communications for Diesel USA, said the campaign was a return to the brand’s classic ads in which the world was frequently turned on its head.

“The last few campaigns we really were pushing the products to the forefront,” said Barton. “We’ve reverted back almost to Diesel’s very surreal brand communications.”

Barton said a renewed confidence gained from improvements in the collection over the last two to three years allowed the company to move away from a wholly product-centric campaign. The global warming take was inspired by the collection, the themes of which were sky and air.

“It isn’t that we want to make a social or political statement,” said Barton. “We’re taking a serious issue and putting it into Diesel’s world, a surreal avant-garde world.”

Barton also said he believed the campaign’s concept and styling would be more effective than simply preaching the evils of climate change.

“The problem with the idea of global warming is that it’s usually lectured to people,” said Barton.

The campaign will begin hitting spring issues of Vogue, GQ and Esquire, but Diesel is already attracting some initial buzz for it. According to Barton, Laurie David, the wife of comedian Larry David and a producer of the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” raved about the ads. Diesel is now working with David on her Stop Global Warming Virtual March, an online petition asking the government to take action on environmental issues. The company has met with Leonardo DiCaprio to explore opportunities to work with him on the issue.

This story first appeared in the January 4, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We don’t want to make light of the subject,” said Barton. “We want to raise it in a way that people can digest.”

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