Friday, November 25, 2011

The salesperson who refuses to speak.

           Every time I suggest putting words in a fashion ad, my fashion students look at me like I'm from another planet.

           They're horrified that I'm suggesting something akin to wearing Gucci loafers to rake the leaves, or wearing a Burberry blazer with pleated jeans. The looks on their faces tell me everything: it just isn't done. It reeks of low quality. When I ask why, nobody has a definite answer.

           To keep the conversation moving, I then suggest that inasmuch as advertising is salesmanship in the media, and since luxury goods salespeople do talk, it's okay for ads to talk, too. Not just whisper their Web addresses sideways in mousetype along the edge of the page.

            Kenneth Cole built his whole business on witty ads. In fact there's a book, "Footsteps", that's full of them, along with the story of how they helped him grow his business. In the retail store category, Ohrbach's broke all the rules. From catty to cool, they were wonderful --- including painting moustaches on the beautiful models on the billboards to announce the opening of their men's store.

           Also in retail is the current campaign, "Oh my Lord and Taylor!" as they announce great buys every week. The "diamonds are forever" ads for deBeers use provocative copy in a format that's almost all headline, except for a small photo of a diamond.

           This myth about copy lessening the perception of quality in fashion ads is a worrisome game of Simon says. I don't know why a company would pay over $100,000 for an ad in Vogue and not use one of the most effective communication tools in their toolbox. Language.

            When will Dior tell us the benefits of their French heritage? Or Gucci tell the advantages of Italian craftsmanship? Would that really lessen the perception of quality? Perfumes do it. So do private jet planes. What about Vogue itself; do luxury fashion buyers find the magazine low in quality because they use words?

            And please, please don't tell me fashion ads don't need headlines because they're works of art. Even Picassos and Cezannes in museums need those little cards with explanations next to them.

            Try it yourself. Turn to one of these copy-less fashion ads in a magazine and write a  headline for it. Or try something else. Find a BMW ad and take all the words out. Where did all the luxury go?

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