Man about town: If tyres can be sexy, Greggs can be sociable

Just how did Pirelli manage it?

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Whether it was the vast venue, the generous feeding and watering of 800 guests or the flying in of Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey to act as MC for the evening that stood out the most, is unclear. What was certain is that Pirelli took the 50th anniversary of their famous calendar very seriously.

And so they might. The Cal (as they call it) has gone from a small marketing exercise in the 1960s to an annual global event. While it may have risked going in the direction of Playboy, it is now a creative endeavour that has some of the world’s best-known  photographers and most popular models scrambling over each other to appear in it.

From the choice of party venue, the HangarBicocca – a vast contemporary art space – to the photographs they chose to adorn it, everything suggested that the company is seeing the annual photoshoot as an artistic event rather than an exercise  in titillation. What was also striking was how they had manage to create and associate this high-fashion product with a car tyre – but the calendar association is proving to  be invaluable. Their French rivals know something about it too: say ‘Michelin’ to a young urbanite and they are just as likely to think of the restaurant guides as they are the tyres.

The whole event made me wonder if a British business could ever do it as well.

I think it’s time for some other fanciful associations to match Pirelli’s ambition.

Phones 4 U could move into film production say, or Pret a Manger could start a boutique record label, or maybe Greggs could launch their own social network...

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