VH1 creates Tommy Hilfiger ads

VH1 creates Tommy Hilfiger ads – MTV Networks Inc

Kathy DeSalvo

Kane Serves As Cr. Dir. On Music-Themed Spots.

NEW YORK – In what represents an unusual collaboration, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger has teamed with music video network VH1 to create his fall television ad campaign.

The two Hilfiger :30s feature music stars Jewel and Lenny Kravitz. Slated at press time to break this week, the spots are stylized collages consisting of various mixed-media images of the artists, accompanied by snippets of their music. Hilfiger provides the voiceover narration, in which he reflects upon Jewel’s and Kravitz’s styles, and how the musicians have influenced his designs.

The ads were creative-directed by Jon Kane, who directed VH1’s acclaimed “Go Behind the Music” image campaign that broke in January (SHOOT, 2/12/99, p. 7). Shot in cinema verite style, the black-and-white VH1 promos featured some of rock’s most legendary figures, including Pete Townshend, Mick Jagger and John Mellencamp talking candidly about their inspirations.

The Hilfiger spots were co-directed by VH 1 senior producer Rob Grobengeiser and Warren Fischer, both of whom are co-directors at New York-based Optic Nerve, a creative collective headed by Kane (who is repped for spots by New York-based Celsius Films). At press time, editor Joel Marcus of bicoastal Mad River Post was cutting the spots.

The Hilfiger/VH1 creative alliance was born in part out of the designer’s close ties to the music community. As part of his declaration of 1999 as the “Year of Music,” Hilfiger has sponsored Jewel’s recent Spirit tour and Kravitz’s Freedom Tour, and both Jewel and Kravitz also appear in Hilfiger’s fall print campaign.

Hilfiger will sponsor the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibition in December, entitled “Rock Style.” The fashions of rock artists who have influenced style from the ’50s to the present will be highlighted in the exhibition, which is organized by the Costume Institute and by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

According to VH1 senior VP/creative director Monica Halpert, who served as executive producer on the spot project, Hilfiger has been a “huge friend” of VH1, and has been very involved in VH1’s Fashion Awards. “Tommy clearly has a lot of respect for VH1,” said Halpert. “I think he feels like what he represents to fashion, we are to music. He’s a huge rock ‘n’ roll fan, and he felt that his whole connection to music is something he really wants to express. And he felt, who better to express that than the people he thinks best represent the music industry?”

Hilfiger approached VH1 with his idea in early spring, related Halpert. In assembling the in-house team, the music network again turned to Kane, whose “Go Behind the Music” campaign made him a natural choice, particularly since Hilfiger loved the ads, said Halpert, who added, “We felt it was a perfect way to bring that team together again.”

Kane related that he and the project’s writer, jazz critic Jim Macknie, pre-interviewed Hilfiger to get an idea of what the designer would say. “We deliberately didn’t write a script for Tommy,” said Kane. “We had this interview, [and] he knew what we were trying to get from him – but we were trying to get it in a conversational way. We assembled the relevant bits of what he said into an interesting audio collage of him talking. So they’re not music-driven spots, even though they’re about music.” The sound design was edited together by Kane, Grobengeiser, Fisher and Marcus; the final audio mix was done by Doug DeFranco of McHale Barone, New York.

The spot’s visuals consist of photographs (supplied by Jewel and Kravitz) which were then rephotographed and manipulated. DP Russell Fine did extensive darkroom work, re-shooting the photos in a variety of formats. Said Kane, “We made eight-by-ten glossy pictures [and then] transparencies, which were backlit, [then] we took the photos and blew them up to [a] huge size and made [copies], [creating] collages of [the copies]. We took two pictures and made a … double exposure [print] of the two, then we re-photographed that on a Polaroid and scratched the Polaroid.”

After manipulating the photos, Fine re-shot them against highly art-directed backgrounds, which were created by Grobengeiser, Fischer and New York-based freelance art director Kevin Largent. “They created a big wall of chipped paint with pieces of old tires,” said Kane. “Russell put the photos on clips and shot them with a long lens and it [became] this really beautiful environment.”

The two-day shoot was followed by several weeks of editing. Marcus related that, true to the artists’ personalities, the Kravitz spot is funkier in its cutting style, whereas the Jewel spot is more poetic and languid. However, it is the audio score, with its stream-of-consciousness, overlapping dialogue and word flow, Marcus believes, that makes the ads so good. Likening it to the library scene in the Wire Wenders film Wings of Desire, Marcus said, “I haven’t seen a spot in America with sound design like this.”

“Fashion commercials can be kind of formulaic,” Marcus added. “I think all of us wanted to do something different with [Hilfiger].”

Additional credits go to Mad River’s New York-based executive producer Krystn Wagenberg; Henry artist/online editor David L. Donovan of The Tape House Editorial Company, New York; and colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld, Company 3, Santa Monica.

COPYRIGHT 1999 BPI Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group