Diesel shows how creative thinking can make programmatic ads fun

Spring Creative has created a playful and irreverent brand language for fashion brand Diesel, which is currently in use across traditional media but also on less expected platforms including Tinder and Shazam…

The new Diesel branding mixes cheeky, humorous copy with the kind of slick, glamorous imagery we expect to see in fashion campaigns. The result is advertising that acknowledges its audience, and brings them in on the joke, but still makes Diesel’s wares look great.

To create it, the team at Spring looked to Diesel’s heritage, and the provocative advertising it was famous for in the past. “It’s interesting to look at Diesel’s history,” says Spring creative director Andreas Neophytou. “They’ve considered themselves to be rebels, ‘only the brave’ is their motto…. We knew moving forward if Diesel wanted to rekindle some of that energy, we had to redefine what being brave was today. It isn’t about one singular message any more, we’re engaged in so many conversations at once.

“It felt like honesty was the new form of brave,” he continues. “Not honesty in a pious way, but ‘let’s just be honest about who we are’. We are a fashion brand and we can do fashion, but we can also laugh at fashion at the same time.”

Top: Diesel ads in Tinder; Above: ad on London taxi
Top: Diesel ads in Tinder; Above: ad on London taxi
Billboards in the US
Billboards in the US
Nicola Formichetti uses the new branding on Instagram
Nicola Formichetti uses the new branding on Instagram

Spring worked with Diesel’s artistic director Nicola Formichetti to help define the new tone and style of the brand, which is now being used across advertising and marketing campaigns all over the world. “He has this anti-fashion streak to him,” says Neophytou of Formichetti. “Part of our inspiration was him and his approach – he just has fun with things.”

While the new language is entertaining and fun when used in traditional media such as press and poster, where it feels especially innovative is in its use on digital apps such as Tinder and Shazam, where the copy refers specifically to the setting the ads are in. For example, if Shazam can’t identify a song, a Diesel ad will appear saying ‘I didn’t get it either’.

Programmatic advertising can often feel intrusive – when you are served an ad for a product you looked at moments before, for example – but by using a knowing form of humour, Diesel’s ads become entertaining rather than annoying.

Ads on Shazam
Ads on Shazam
Instagram ad
Instagram ad
Instagram ad
Instagram ad

“The fact that it lends itself to programmatic is because that’s how we think brands should be behaving today,” says Neophytou. “It’s about engaging people in the right places where honesty and humour really cuts through, which implies being very savvy with programmatic and where you buy your media.

“We were thinking in a very digital forward way from the beginning,” he continues. “Because if you put Diesel up against those other fashion brands that really dominate the pages of Vogue and so on, and that’s the only place they really have a voice, then I think that’s a very difficult battle to play. But they’ve got the ability to say so much more than other brands, and I think that allows them to be in these other places, it allows them to have a point of view on different things.

“What we’re trying to do is come up with ads that you’ll actually enjoy, and are not just trying to ram product down your throat.”

Ad in the Guardian
Ad in the Guardian
Evening Standard cover ad
Evening Standard cover ad

The success of Diesel’s work is perhaps a signal that it’s time for creative thinking to become more of a central part of the programmatic conversation. “It’s really about being contextual and I think people expect that now,” says Richard Welch, global head of strategy at Spring.

“Advertising has been incredibly lazy and is still suffering from the days of shouting at people. You need to engage and being contextual is part of that engagement: if you’re in Tinder and your mindset is either of flirtation or excitement or ego boost then creating an experience that fits in with that is hopefully entertaining and not disruptive in a negative way. Hopefully we achieved that.”

Creative Review, together with our sister brands Marketing Week and Consultancy is running a one-day conference on the role of creativity in programmatic advertising on March 2. Details are here

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