Diesel’s latest ad is about a man who transitions to become a woman-- but that’s not the potentially controversial part. While transgender storylines have become fairly common over the past year in advertising, the fashion brand takes a step further in “Francesca,” its new film out of Publicis Italy.
Beautifully directed by Francois Rousselet, the three minute spot follows the journey of a young male student as he transitions into becoming a woman. We see out protagonist at first as a young male student plucking his eyebrows but still using men’s bathrooms and taking pills; then gradually he starts to wear make up and adopt a more feminine style. Eventually, Francesca's transition is complete as she uses the women’s room and ticks the female gender box on he passport form. However the story doesn’t end there -- in a twist that may court some controversy (especially in the brand’s native Italy), Francesca eventually abandons the Diesel denim he/she has worn all along and dons a habit to enter a convent.
If you watch the film back, some clues are there (the character doodles a religious motif at one point, and ignores a fellow student who tries to make a pass) but if you weren’t paying attention, this one will definitely take you by surprise.
The film was created in conjunction with Diversity, an Italian association committed to promoting social inclusion. The agency also worked closely with Harlow Monroe, the Canadian model who plays Francesca, to ensure it documented the process of transition authentically. Although filmed in November last year, its launch will coincide with Pride month across the world, with Diesel introducing a2020 capsule collection dedicated to Pride. The brand is also setting up a fund to support projects dealing with gender identity and integration into the work market.
Publicis Global Chief Creative Officer Bruno Bertelli told Creativity he knew the film was a daring idea to present to the client; he originally showed six or seven different options and included the idea knowing it was potentially controversial, he says. "But (Diesel founder) Renzo Rosso picked this one up.”
“I am very proud of ‘Francesca,’ and of the Diesel values that inspired this story," said Rosso in a statement. "When we created ‘For Successful Living’ many years ago, our thought was the same then as it is today. Individuality, pride, and the power to live as one wants is the ultimate success in life."