Benetton Bounces Back – Benetton Group S.p.A., marketing campaign – Brief Article – Statistical Data Included

Sandra Dolbow

Benetton, the Italian fashion brand best known for its controversial advertising is bursting back on the U.S. fashion scene with new megastores and fresh ads that return to bright, colorful hues and multi-cultural themes.

Benetton had backed away from the U.S. in recent years after a major assault in the ’70s that led to an overbuilt retail network with some 600-700 licensed stores, many of them underperformers. The U.S., now with just 150 outlets, accounts for 15% of Benetton’s total $2.4 billion in sales. “We didn’t understand the market and we overexpanded,” said company rep Mark Major.

Benetton’s energetic, product-focused ads, shot in New York last week, may seem tame compared to previous campaigns that portrayed a dead Bosnian soldier, an AIDS patient and last year’s death-row inmates. Photographing on U.S. soil underscores Benetton’s renewed focus here.

Benetton, which operates 6,000 retail outlets worldwide, plans to open megastores to showcase its brand in some of the world’s hippest shopping areas, including New York and Atlanta this year, with more to follow in 2002.

The company which is also developing its e-commerce arm, has opened 60 megastores in some of the world’s most cosmopolitan areas, from Corso Buenos Aires in Milan to the Champs Elysees in Paris, and prestigious locations in London, Tokyo and Rome. Stores are either run directly by Benetton, per its plan to control distribution, or by long-standing partners.

Print ads, timed to the opening of stores in the U.S. this fall, are being shot by James Mollison and portray a colorful group of New Yorkers clad in Benetton sweaters and jackets against a crisp white background. The images convey a sense of freedom and a positive, dynamic expression of Benetton style. One model is a poet who performs at local coffee houses. Others were discovered on the street, in bars or riding the subway. The global push will run in 120 countries and includes print and catalogs.

Mollison, 27, is a product of Fabrica, Benetton’s cultural research and development center that backs young artists from all over the world. He replaced Oliverio Toscani, Benetton’s creative director of 18 years, who left the company after the controversy touched off by last year’s death-row inmates ads.

Noted Chinese film director Zhang Juan shot the TV ads in the U.S. with 10-, 15-, 30- and 60-second formats slated to deliver a multicultural concept with a Chinese accent. The spots will air in theaters as well as on television.

However, the company isn’t completely backing off its more socially relevant messages of the past. “We will continue to collaborate on dramatic issues. Why not? It’s in our philosophy,” said Paolo Landi, Benetton Group advertising director.

Benetton’s next social statement will likely break next winter and speak to the refugee issue, a theme that touches Italy plus nearby war-torn countries. The subject is close to Mollison, who wrote a book on Kosovo refugees in conjunction with the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, and an earlier one on foreign workers in the factories of northeast Italy.

Benetton spends an estimated $80 million on ads, including print and billboard as well as Fabrica R&D, Colors magazine and Catalogs. the company spent $3.4 million on ads in the U.S. in the first 10 months last year, per Competitive Media Reporting.

COPYRIGHT 2001 BPI Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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