In 2009 we were invited onto a global pitch for something we’d never heard of: Vertu.
A luxury phone; and when I say luxury, I mean luxury.These babies were £60 – 70k.
Ironically, the brief was to “Take the bling out of the brand.”
(So let’s get this straight…, you want us to make these solid gold phones, with diamonds stuck on them, appear less blingy? So…what… more functional?)
We looked at the previous campaign. It tried desperately to justify the price: “It takes thousands of hours to make, uses tonnes of precious stones, 24 carat gold, it’s polished with Unicorns jizz, it’s worth it, honest Guv,”
To me, true luxury brands don’t have to justify their existence.
They have a bit of arrogance and swagger about them: “If you like our stuff great, if you don’t that’s your problem.”
So we felt that there were three key things they needed to get across:
a). Show them being used by people with gravitas.
b). Look arrogant.
c). Holding the phone was important.
The phones were very tactile, they were weighty.
We’d heard that the store staff felt if they could get a phone in the hands of a potential buyer, they’d increased their chances of a sale.
Firstly, showing celebrities is hard, the product often disappears, especially if it’s something like a phone, it’s just too small.
Secondly, how do you stand out if your ad is essentially a person and a product?
I remembered a campaign I’d done for the Patek Phillipe pitch whilst at Leagas Delaney.
It was based on close-up shots of famous people’s hands, a bit like the old Alfred Stieglitz series.
Focussing on people’s hands not only made the campaign feel enigmatic, it allowed the watches to be life-size.
We pitched: “The issue isn’t that people think your phones are too blingy, they’re not blingy enough, stop protesting and man up, if some people think you’re blingy, that’s their problem, they probably can’t afford a Vertu anyway, so get over it”.
Apparently, we were the only agency not to present a way to take the “bling out of the brand.”
We won and ran these ads all over the world.
Now, they look pretty straight forward, but it’s unusual for ads this simple not to be complicated by the process.
Sometimes well meaning and intelligent comments can kill a brand, particularly a luxury brand.
THIS IS HOW IT COULD HAVE GONE:
“I LOVE IT. Just one thing, would it be possible to pick a shot where we could see Michelle’s face? We’ve paid all that money to use her after all.”
Although she looks a bit of a misery guts, were there any happier pictures from the shoot? Oh… and I wonder whether we should put ‘Michelle’ in front of ‘Yeoh’, just to be on the safe side?”
“Excellent! Excellent! Whoa!… Hang on, the phone’s a bit hard to see, perhaps we should put a pack shot at the bottom of the ad, elegantly done, of course. And could we just have a look at a colour picture of Michelle, people are used to seeing her in colour.”
“Fantastic!…Love it! Oh… hang on, what if someone likes the look of that phone and wants to buy one? Shouldn’t we show them where they can be bought? Let the dog see the bone, so to speak?”
“Great! A friend, who’s no expert by any means, made an interesting suggestion – wouldn’t it be more of an endorsement to swap the ampersand symbol for a love symbol? Sorry guys, but could we just try it?”
“Ooh no, perhaps we just say it with words: ‘Michelle loves her Vertu’, it’s probably classier?”
“Now that is an ad, well done guys, perfect!”