Strategy and Sausages:
A British Strategic Planner in Germany
Thursday, 7 December 2017
This year, there's been rather a spate of what I'd call 'diversity' commercials, for example Levis' 'Circles' above. It's got a great soundtrack and definitely leaves you feeling good about humanity and wanting to get up and dance. So far, so good.
But the more of these rather generic-looking commercials I see, the more I get deja-vu, right back to the 80s, when I was getting up and shaking my stuff rather more frequently than I do now. And I think of The United Colours of Benetton.
Although Luciano Benetton had been going with his fashion emporium since 1969, it wasn't until 1982 that he met his partner in crimes against bland advertising, photographer and art director Oliviero Toscani. And the two of them changed the face of marketing and advertising forever.
These posters may look a little dated now (especially the clothes!). But we're going back over 30 years. Is the 2017 Levis commercial any different to this in terms of the idea behind it?
What came subsequently from the creative partnership maybe overshadowed these posters with their spirit of youthful optimism and a borderless future. As the decade turned, the idea of 'United Colours' was taken into a more controversial sphere:
And what happened in the early 90s is now advertising history: the newborn baby, the human hearts, the blood-stained uniform, the death row prisoners, the AIDs victim deathbed scene. Was it controversy for controversy's sake? And where, in all of this, were the clothes?
As an aside, for all the talk about the importance of the retail experience today, that was another area that Benetton pioneered and got absolutely right in the 1980s. Who of a certain age can ever forget the stores with their neatly-stacked piles of rainbow-coloured jumpers? It was a fashion sweet-shop if ever there was one.
Diversity, shopping experience, political and social causes - Benetton was definitely ahead of its time.
Toscani and Benetton parted ways as the millennium turned. But now they are back together, older and maybe wiser. In the new campaign, they have gone back to their roots in some ways with photography of an Italian primary school class with children from 13 different countries and 4 different continents.
It looks almost as if we could be back in 1984. But with one difference. These aren't models - this is real life.
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I got off to a good start, studying Psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge but somehow got side-tracked into the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.
My children's books: