I once pitched for Vertu.
I’d never heard of it either, it turned out to be a luxury mobile phone brand.
And when I say luxury I mean luxury; some models were £100k.
The brief was, and I kid you not, to “Take the bling out of the brand”.
Some of these phones were made of solid gold had diamonds stuck on them.
We looked at their previous advertising, it had tried desperately to justify the price; ‘thousands of hours… precious stones polished with baby Unicorn’s jizz’, etc, etc.
True luxury brands don’t have to justify their existence.
They have swagger, bordering arrogance.
Their vibe is “If you like our stuff great, if you don’t fuck off.”
So we thought – the problem isn’t that they are too blingy, the problem is they aren’t blingy enough.
They should stop apologising and trying to justify their existence.
If some people don’t like that; tough (they probably can’t afford one any way?).
WE MADE SOME RULES FOR OURSELVES:
1. Show the phone being used by people with gravitas (not celebrities, people with jobs).
2. Don’t say much, just be, look supremely confident.
3. Store staff had told us that if they could get a phone in the hands of a customer, they increased their chances of a sale.
Because the phones were very tactile and weighty, so we wanted to try and capture that in the photographs.
1. Showing someone famous AND a product is tough when the product is so small, it’ll be swamped by the famous person.
Show David Beckham driving a car and you’ll recognise him AND see all the details of the car.
Alternatively, show him using a phone and the phone will vanish.
2. How do our ads stand out when famous person + product is a very familiar ad construct?
ANSWER: We just show famous people’s hands – creating a distinctive, own-able visual style AND allowing the premium product to be seen in all its (blingy) glory.
We were told we were the only agency not to offer up a way to taking the bling out of the brand.
So we won.
The ads look simple and pretty straight forward now, but it’s unusual for ads this simple not to be complicated by the process.
Sometimes very intelligent, well meaning 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?”
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? People are used to seeing Michelle in colour.”
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?”
Oh yeah, this might not work…but a friend, who’s by no means a marketing expert, made an interesting suggestion – swap the ampersand symbol for a love symbol?
It be more of an endorsement…Love!…She… ‘Loves it’.
Could we just look at it?”
“Ooh no! Let’s just say it with words: ‘Michelle loves her Vertu’.
Much classier than that trashy symbol.”
“Oh. My. God!
You know what you’ve done don’t you?
You’ve only gone and created a frickin’ masterpiece!
Thank you sooo much.”
Fortunately, that wasn’t how it went and these ads ran across the world for the next five years.