I Feel You
Some ads stay with you, and many don't.
“I say the word
I say your name
I cover you
I shelter you
You are the one
You are my own
I smell you on my skin”
Have you had a similar experience? If yes, you might have engaged with narrative transportation. These words were written by Jenny Holzer for Helmut Lang’s perfume ad in 1999.
If you have been in love, the above ad instinctively reminds you of that beautiful and satisfactory moment of when you want to keep your loved one’s scent with you all day.
And you love Helmut Lang for reminding you of that feeling..
Barbara Phillipps and Edward McQuarrie describe these situations as ’narrative transportation’ in their research paper ‘Narrative and Persuasion in Fashion Advertising,’ published in 2010. The term means to be carried away by a story, and the authors believe that it is what separates the good ads from the bad ones.
According to an article posted by TCS Media, ‘a person sees 2,500 adverts in a day.’ The Director of Entertainments at TCS Media, Justin Mallinson was curious about this figure and so conducted his own experiment. The results showed that although a person might be exposed to thousands of ads in a day depending on their location and the time, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are engaging with them.
With literally thousands of ads viewed each day, it is harder now to make them noticeable and effective. In this sense, fashion is probably one of the most successful industries when it comes to creating good advertisements. Storytelling serves as the backbone of a fashion brand’s infrastructure, and therefore, their advertisement campaigns must also reflect these stories in highly structured narratives. However, sometimes even the most well-crafted advertisements become just a number among thousands.
Some ads stay with you, and many don’t. — Artstein has selected some examples that have remained in our memory over the last years.
Helmut Lang’s Artistic Lifestyle
Helmut Lang’s innovative and distinct advertisement style of the 90s’ —artistic, evasive, and impressive— is still very powerful today and a source of inspiration reference to endless creatives and fashion designers.
For example, Helmut Lang became the first fashion designer to advertise on New York City taxis in 1988, a brilliant idea that has since left a lasting impression. Since then, other fashion brands have copied the same idea, and started using taxi cabs as a form of advertising communication.
The prescient designer frequently collaborated with art and photography’s finest, showcasing only the highly artistic works of artists such as, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jenny Holzer, in his ads without showcasing any product. The product-free campaign was a very unique statement at the time, with campaigns combining the work visionary artists with the utmost simplicity. It has since become code for a cool lifestyle fashion brand, adopted by the likes of Marc Jacobs, Celine, Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent and Loewe.
“What Lang had brought to the market was zeitgeist, a mood, an idea; and his art-meets-fashion approach prefaced an intertextual relationship that seems utterly commonplace today.” - Sophie Bew via Another Magazine
Entirely shot by Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel ads in the 90s are most memorable for their singular aesthetic — presenting a photography series of a dreamy glamour in the same layout; with the Chanel logo below, and the photos framed in a black border. With Chanel making the impossible possible, the dreamy luxury was captured in a way that felt completely true.
UNITED COLORS OF BENETTON’S CONTROVERSIAL ADS
Rising to popularity in the '80s and '90s for its colourful knits, Benetton is famed for their controversial advertisements under the creative direction of Oliviero Toscani. “We did not create our advertisements in order to provoke, but to make people talk, to develop citizen consciousness,” said Luciano Benetton in an interview, defending the brand. The subjects of these advertisements and the way subjects are projected were criticised for normalising sexism/racism, inequality and violence. Although these shockingly disturbing images were the ads that created the most controversy, the core identity of the brand Benetton is formed through its signature ads that featured people from different ages and background in the famous Benetton colours. When you saw the other Benetton campaigns, the first thing you noticed was these rainbow colours and diversity — and you still remember that. However, lately in 2008, Benetton again forced the limits by releasing yet another controversial campaign featuring images of migrants recently rescued from the Mediterranean. Many people thought that it was “unacceptable and disrespectful” on Twitter.
VERSACE FALL 2000 campaign, photographed by STEVEN MEISEL © VERSACE
The Versace Fall 2000 campaign, was chosen for Steven Meisel’s first-ever European gallery presentation by the White Cube. Some argue that fashion photography should be considered an art and in fact, Meisel exhibited a number of large-format photographs that form the core of the acclaimed advertising campaign that he had recently shot for Versace. And why not?
The highly structured, cinematographic and maximalist setting show that these photos are captured with attention to detail, which raises the question of whether these pictures reflect reality at all. The Guardian writer Jonathan Jones commented on these photos that “you start wondering where fantasy ends and reality begins, how close the models are to the roles they adopt, who owns these houses.”
But in fact, they do reflect the real lifestyle of Gianni Versace and the elite housewives of Beverly Hills who represent the luxury lifestyle that Versace was trying to sell, therefore, the images are very powerful. It is in fact so real to its core that the brand acknowledged the fact that these women create a stereotype through their style (their elegant dresses, rock-sized jewels on perfectly manicured hands, platinum hairstyles and full make-up) and chose to feature two virtually identical looking models: Amber Valetta and Georgina Grenville.
Since 2010, we have seen a new approach to Céline campaigns which encompasses the fashion brand’s new lifestyle approach to advertising. It all started, without a doubt, with Juergen Teller, who embarked on a new approach to fashion advertising which heralded photography. This is an approach that has been praised by consumers, proving that reality sells more - with the images reflecting effortless chic, natural makeup, natural settings and poses. The lifestyle that Céline ads portrayed was accepted positively by consumers, increasing the popularity of the brand generously and resulting in many other brands copying the same style – all with a goal to look as cool as Céline.