York on Ads: No 3: Benetton's scent

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The Independent Culture
BENETTON is a rather boring multinational retailer famous for the folding of its 'classic' woollies and for its advertising. Its posters have produced a stream of shock-horror stories based on single images - the very newborn baby, cord attached; the dying Aids victim and the oil-slicked bird.

The posters use the fashion photographer Toscani as 'creative director' instead of an advertising agency. It's an investment in 'corporate identity', rather than pleading the case for a mulberry cardigan. The objective is to make Benetton sound like an interesting, creative, socially aware young person's global brand. That way they add interest to the international computer-controlled stock.

Now Benetton is on TV with a scent, Tribu, 'the perfume of nature inspired by the kinship and diversity of peoples throughout the world'. The ad (also by Sgr Toscani) is a series of images of people jogging about in ritual patterns - the kind of ethnic people favoured by the Vogue travelogue sensibility, plus the kind of Western folk art directors like - cheerleaders and so forth. It looks a bit like a Desmond Morris programme - there's nowt so daft as folk and they're the same all over the world really.

There's Frank Sinatra singing 'I'll be seeing you' (in all the old famililar places) and a rather bold bottle, rocket-shaped. Elizabeth Taylor's Passion it's not. And yet it too uses an identity created elsewhere to get you to pay through the nose for a scent.

It doesn't hit you in the eye like the posters. It's got a specific job to do, making the bottle identifiable in-store, so it's much tamer than the posters. The scent counters at Harrods and Selfridges don't want to be associated with any nastiness.

(Photograph omitted)

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