As the category once thought invulnerable to the economy starts to show signs of strain, the upscale fashion marketer is breaking with tradition to launch a 90-second spot on cable and satellite channels, including CNN and BBC Worldwide and in cinemas Feb. 15.
"It's certainly unorthodox, in the sense that these companies rely primarily on print and now some web," said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute. "It's good to see a brand like Vuitton do something different. I don't know if this test is going to work or not, but it's good to see some innovation."
Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, which specializes in luxury goods, said that although she believes Louis Vuitton's plan is "misdirected," she's glad to see luxe labels thinking beyond print.
"Television is a mass medium, and it is talking to an audience that is different from their core audience," she said. "But the fact is luxury brands need to be thinking about new media and new ways to communicate their message."
One of the few luxury companies that has embarked on a similar campaign in the U.S. is Chanel, which launched a two-minute spot in 2004. The Baz Luhrman-directed epic starring Nicole Kidman and promoting Chanel No. 5 perfume reportedly cost $10 million.
Louis Vuitton executives declined to comment on the cost of their ad but did say it represents an increase in total spending for 2008. According to TNS Media Intelligence, $35 million was spent in measured media (excluding outdoor) on the Vuitton brand through November of last year -- virtually all of it in print.
The TV and cinema effort, by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, will be translated into 13 languages. The effort does not pitch product; instead it shows dreamy landscapes while text rolls on the screen with questions such as "What is a journey?" and "Where will life take you?"
The ad is meant to embody the idea of self-discovery and personal journey, said Pietro Beccari, senior VP-communications and marketing for the brand. "Every year, Louis Vuitton tries to reinforce its advertising share of voice, and this campaign is the right tool to do so," said Mr. Beccari. "The campaign ... is supposed to touch our clientele and viewers in a new, unique way that perhaps other media will not touch."
Maybe not, but a shift out of print could surely be a touchy issue for the magazine industry.
"A lot of luxury advertisers are looking at their advertising spending and whether they're getting the value for their buy," said David Arnold, senior VP-group publisher of the Robb Report. "Fashion will always run in Vogue, but they'll see some pressure. People are being much more selective and targeted about the magazines they select."
Jimmy Choo wants more media tooLouis Vuitton isn't the only luxury firm making strategic departures from the ordinary.
British luxury label Jimmy Choo, which has had little need of advertising in the past thanks to a loyal celebrity following and plenty of cameos on "Sex and the City," has named AR, New York, its first creative agency of record. Why? It's looking to increase its media presence, said CEO Joshua Schulman.
The company, already well-known for its footwear and handbags, recently crossed over into eyewear and is expected to embark on additional category extensions. That, said Mr. Schulman, is reason enough to tap a dedicated creative partner. "Jimmy Choo is on the trajectory from being a fabulous line of shoes and handbags to being a global luxury brand," he said. "As we expand across product categories and geographies, it is important for us to elevate the visual expression of our brand and have a synchronicity across all consumer touch points."
Jimmy Choo execs are expected to meet with New York-based AR next week to begin hammering out an ad strategy. AR's clients include Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers and Elie Tahari. Previously, Jimmy Choo's advertising was handled in-house.