A case of risk and reward

Arden, Avedon and Alexon may have been a combustible combination but they delivered the goods in this classic campaign

Avedon, Alexon, Africa… Arden. This is an ad (in case you were wondering) art directed by Paul Arden and written by Tim Mellors. And of course one of the reasons it’s a good ad is because it doesn’t look remotely like an ad. But there are other reasons too. In fact, to say the whole approach is ‘un-ad-like’ is clearly a massive understatement.

What are we flogging here? Frocks, would you believe. Alexon is a fashion brand, although I use the term ‘fashion’ loosely. So to make the product look great, Arden called upon the services of another giant of the creative world, photographer Richard Avedon. Incredible. Arden, Avedon, supermodel Iman and let’s not forget a brilliant make-up artist and stylist all in the same room. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for a start, I don’t think Alexon designed their dresses so their customers could walk around with their right breast hanging out, as per Avedon’s striking photograph. But it’s not so much the tits that impress me here, it’s the balls. Do you think any the worse of the brand for taking this brave approach? Of course not. It’s an amazing image. An image, I would wager, that is far superior and far more memorable than the editorial fashion photographs that surrounded it in the magazines where the ad ran.

And I’m pretty certain that the client didn’t envisage anyone scrunching up one of their dresses and wearing it on their head. Or throwing yellow paint over it. Not very Middle England is it? But that’s exactly what Avedon did. I remember talking to Paul Arden about this shoot. He was convinced he was going to get fired. But he didn’t care. Did they go too far? Is the image tasteless? That’s a subjective personal call. What I admire most here is the attitude. The desire to take a risk. The intention to do something shocking. To make something that actually cuts through and gets noticed. Well done Alexon for running it.

And on the subject of risk, have you read the copy? Blimey. Weird but great. With wonderful elegant typography like an editorial spread by Alexey Brodovitch. No logo of course, not necessary.

Is it just me who’s utterly bored by the type of pan-global print pap that tends to win at Cannes? This wouldn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance. And I can’t think of a better endorsement than that. This is much more fun. And more importantly, it works. 1

Paul Belford is the founder of creative agency Paul Belford Ltd, paulbelford.com. Details of his D&AD art direction session, Art Directing the Idea, at dandad.org


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