Fashion advertising is running out of ideas



Marc duffy wrote the blog Copyranter for 11 years and is a freelance writer with over 25 years of experience. His hockey punch is better than yours.

Fashion ads tend to be clueless. The labels sell an image, not the clothes. Picture advertising can still be conceptual, but most advertising and fashion campaigns are created by fashion photographers. And most fashion photographers have no idea what an advertising “concept” is. For them, a concept is made up of different weird poses, or different weird models, or different weird props, or different weird settings. These are “executions”, not ideas.

Still, there have been a few good fashion campaigns over the past 25-30 years. Benetton’s in-your-face ads on social issues from the 1990s Oliviero Toscani looked like nothing we had seen in the category. You’d look forward to the next announcement – something all smart brands and ad agencies used to aim for.

The Comme Des Garçons men’s shirts ads the last 15 years or so are unlike anything else in the category. No product is ever shown, and like the Benetton campaign, you can’t wait to see the next ad.

And while these are mostly retail and sales executions, recent advertisements for British brand Harvey Nichols have been always smart.

But looking at recent fashion announcements from big brands, you will see little creativity and no originality. Like this two-minute “movie” for Etro titled “The Hunger” and / or “Through My Eyes” by Psyop:

Dramatic music, the man and woman at the ends of a long table (done ad nauseam), the woman begins to crawl towards the man on the table (also done to death), someone (not the man, nor the woman) pours too much a glass of wine (symbolic either for overconsumption, or for death or “we have no concept”), the woman reaches the man, and – nothing happens.

If “Etro: Fuck You” had won the day, at least I would have respected them a little for wasting two minutes of my life.

Then there’s this “Women’s Day” video from last fall for H&M (by Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors) that Adweek called “”Superb“:

There is a muscular woman (eww, no!), Several women who do not look like models, Lauren Hutton (so old!), An armpit hair woman – eating fries! shame! It all ties in with a redesign of Tom Jones’ sexist hit “She’s a Lady”, turning it into… yes, an HYMN. How subtle and so subversive of you, H&M. If it was in 1986.

Finally, and more recently, there is this new “movie” by Diesel, directed by David LaChapelle, titled, lame, “Make Love Not Walls” that Adweek called “Very memorable”:

Congratulations Diesel, are you the fourth? Fifth? (maybe more?) mark to take over President Trump’s stupid, as yet unbuilt border wall. Other brands want to exploit the suffering of immigrants to sell their shit? Don’t worry, there will be more.

Opened on: handsome shirtless guy with tattoos (I’m already zzzing). A lone daisy is thrown back and forth over the ugly wall. OK, stop there, and you have at least one simple memorable moment. But it was LaChapelle, who should have stuck with print ads (more evidence: this terrible spot of Uma Thurman Schweppes he directed), so …

Fault ! go up the wall, turn up the exaggerated not subtle soundtrack, between pro dancers, more shirtless men, men kissing, transgender people kissing, maybe ?, colorful shit everywhere (hint : GAY), an Arab man kissing a non-Arab man … whom he has just married! Various semi-famous people everywhere. (Adweek has the list). Where’s the Trump lookalike kissing the Pence lookalike? It may be Benetton’s next announcement.

Left, LaChappelle’s tank from 2017. Right: War Child’s tank from 2012.

And for the big finish: A Big Goddamned Gay Tank. What a mess without originality and confusing. NOTE: The Big Gay Tank is also used in the printing part campaign, except (left, above) for LaChapelle’s riffs of the famous 1989 Tiananmen Square photo… so the Big Gay Tank is… bad? Additionally, I’m sure all parties involved, including the Anomaly Amsterdam agency, knew absolutely nothing about the big balloon (right, above) used by Belgian NGO War Child in 2012 to protest against the use of children in war zones. Nope. Nobody knew. Five years ago, the Internet did not exist.

Diesel has actually done some pretty bad ads in the past. Remember the “Ready for global warming”Campaign carried out with in 2007? It was simple! And there was a real thought behind it.

No, fashion is definitely running out of ideas. The most recent Calvin Klein campaign filled with boring and “edgy” celebrities only further confirms this. All of this kind of makes me miss the porn ads from American Apparel.

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