Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Advertising: taking the good with the bad

Louis Vuitton: Iconic. Established. The Monogram.

There won't be a single fashionista out there who won't be familiar with the name, the brand or its products. 2010 marks Louis Vuitton's 125th anniversary - and the celebrations included last night's widely advertised and hotly anticipated launch party of the iconic brand's flagship "London Maison" in New Bond Street.

Fashionista has heard that the fabulous, the famous and the beautiful all rubbed shoulders at the event. Gone are the days when we have to rely on next day press write-ups, as LV fans around the world were able to share in the glamour of the red carpet event as it was happening by watching it play out on the brand's Facebook page. A savvy move, exploiting social media to maximise the accessibility of a brand - reaching millions with a simple upload. An instantaneous, interactive and very effective form of advertisement.

Certainly more effective, Fashionista muses, than two Louis Vuitton adverts which the Advertising Standards Agency has today declared misleadingly implied that Louis Vuitton's products are hand made. The full report on the ASA website highlights the importance of giving careful consideration to the implicit message in ads, as the two Louis Vuitton ads were pulled after the ASA received only 3 complaints.

Fashionista invites her readers to judge for themselves whether or not the ASA has got it right or is the ban the result of overzealous censorship when faced with the smallest hint of complaint. Does, for example, an image of a woman using a needle and thread to stitch the handle of a bag together with the text "... infinite patience protects each overstitch ... One could say that a Louis Vuitton bag is a collection of fine details. But with so much attention lavished on every one, should we only call them details?" mislead consumers into believing that LV bags are stitched by hand?

The decision also highlights the importance of retaining evidence relating to a brand - its products, designs, know-how and manufacturing processes (to name but a few) - to help defend claims made against it. Fashionista has seen the issue of evidence retention come up again and again when brandowners have sought to rely on copyright in fabric patterns or design right in shoes and handbags, and the difficulty faced when they have not kept hold of sufficient background materials to prove their rights or substantiate their case. The ASA claimed, in this case, that because they had not seen evidence from Louis Vuitton to show the extent to which products may, in fact, be hand made, the ASA had to conclude that the ads were misleading.

The ban suggests that someone, somewhere, got this one a little wrong. Whether it is the complainants and the ASA or Louis Vuitton is open to debate. Whatever your opinion, the old adage "all publicity is good publicity" springs to mind. Perhaps the ban will make Louis Vuitton seem contemporary; exciting; pushing boundaries; not forgotten. After all, a brand which can survive 125 years in the fast changing, often fickle world of fashion and brand loyalty - and retain a luxury reputation throughout - must be doing something right.