Blogs & Comment

Disagreeing with an advertising icon

Rob Guenette is like a rock star in Canada’s advertising industry. He gets tons of ink from the trade mags (he was recently on the cover of Strategy). He’s the CEO of Taxi, an ad shop that wins heaps of awards each year. Over the phone, at least, he sounds like a pretty cool dude.
I recently spoke to him about his appearance in the latest Harry Rosen campaign. (Rob is on the far left.) Since the ads are meant to showcase bold leaders, I asked him to critique the execution, which includes print and onlinecomponents. He praised the retailer for having the balls to push high-end clothing in the midst of an “economic shitstorm” and going with regular-looking guys instead of models. (While the men in the ads may not have chiseled jaws, perfect pecs or washboard abs, they all have resumes that would put the accomplishments of many male models to shame.)
We got on the topic of the campaign’s website. I mentioned that when I clicked on “Spring 09” I didn’t get images of Harry Rosen clothing. (There are pictures now.) Just a blank screen with the message “coming soon” or something along those lines. I thought that was poor execution. Guenette responded by launching into a story about how Tommy Hilfiger, after going from obscurity to ubiquity, once asked George Lois, his ad guy, to put more shirts in the ads. The tale ends with Lois putting his hand on Hilfiger’s shoulder and saying, “Tommy, it ain’t about the shirts!”
“What George was trying to say, and this is true of the Harry Rosen campaign, is it more about what the brand is expressing, what the message is, as opposed to a specific shirt, a specific pair of trousers or specific suit,” Guenette said. “When these fashion brands are communicating to their target consumers, they’re communicating an attitude or a feeling as opposed to cataloging what they’re carrying,” he added.
I agree with Rob that fashion brands need to have a personality. But I believe Harry Rosen dropped the ball by not having clothes that would pique my interest enough to walk into one of their stores. Because of that, I’ll just keep shopping at Banana Republic.