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An exploration of the effectiveness of print campaigns in a digital age

An exploration of the effectiveness of print campaigns in a digital age

Breaking the Internet


Move over Kim Kardashian because Justin Bieber and Joan Didion nearly broke the internet this month, as different fashion campaigns starring them went viral. Inspired by this unprecedented success and Lou Stoppards evaluation, we examine the merits of digital campaigns over print...

In an age where a popular icon can reach 9.1 million people in a matter of minutes, with a single Instagram post (we're thinking Cara Delevingne) it is a wonder that fashion brands still prioritise print advertising in their budget plans. This quandary has been sharply brought to the fore in the wake of some recent and incredibly effective new campaigns, that launched earlier this month, forcing the industry to face the question: In this digital age, are print campaigns becoming a thing of the past? 

In Lou Stoppard's insightful Op-Ed piece, published on The Business of Fashion, this hypothesis is thoroughly examined and, spoiler alert, asserted to be true. We need only  look to at the extraordinary success of Calvin Klein's recent underwear campaign, starring Justin Bieber (also featuring Lara Stone and shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott) in a sort-of web 2.0 reboot of the hit 'Marky Mark' campaign of the 1990's, to see the evidence. The Bieber-led campaign gained Calvin Klein a whopping 3.6 million followers across its social media platforms.

Justin Bieber is Calvin Klein's newest model

Whichever way you slice it, this kind of reach is beyond the capabilities of print media. 

In the first 48 hours after its launch, the hashtag #mycalvins generated 1.6 million Twitter mentions, not to mention the 21.9 million followers of Bieber's Instagram account, who would have all seen the images pass through their feed. In total, more than 172 million social media followers received campaign-related posts, which galvanised a whopping 25.5 million excited fan interactions. Whichever way you slice it, this kind of reach is beyond the capabilities of print media. 

It can be no accident that Calvin Klein benefited from the force of the online 'Belieber army'. The value of Bieber, as with any celebrity endorsement is, of course, his sphere of influence. The new kind of influence that has been built around a younger generation who were raised online and live a life that is narrated and driven by social media. Teenagers now spend as much as 7.5 hours of each day online, an occupation that has stolen them away from leafing through glossy magazines. Their subscriptions arrive in their in-box or Instagram homepage, not their letter-box.  

Shortly before Bieber's 'Break the Internet' Calvin Klein images hit the web (a much more impressive attempt than Kim Kardashian's Paper magazine attempt that launched the hashtag #breaktheinternet, which pales in comparison) came the wild social trending of Céline's Spring/Summer 2015 campaign, fronted by octogenarian Joan Didion – another case-study in point. 

Céline debut its Spring/Summer 15 campaign in full

Didion flooded the Internet, from retro images, thought-led retrospectives and so on, the potential was seemingly limitless and the Internet exploded with Didion fever (it's a higher-brow version of Bieber fever). Stoppard comments on this by saying: "Numerous outlets, including i-D and The Cut, picked up that this ad was made for the Internet rather than print, though, of course, Didion will look great on glossy paper. They wrote of Didion's "Tumblr currency," a reference to the share-friendly, Like-able content that can be created around the cult of Didion, from vintage photographs to memorable, inspirational quotes"

Despite Phoebe Philo's well document aversion to the Internet, this campaign's brilliance ignited a tsunami of shares, likes and commentary that simply could not have been achieved through any other platform. Didion was trending worldwide.  

First look: Louis Vuitton's new Spring/Summer 15 campaign

Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière also milked the benefits of social media recently by drip-feeding teasers from the Spring/Summer 2015 shoot that starred Jennifer Connelly and model Freja Beha and was shot by a power-trio of Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber and Juergen Teller. The stills were accompanied by some behind the scenes video footage that was lapped-up by the millions of dedicated followers of the luxury brand. Consumers have come to expect to be able to consume every level of information which of course includes motion video. Something that is simply not achievable in a magazine.

Traditionalists and conservatives might argue that digital campaigning and viral imagery lacks the gravitas and dignity of campaigns published in reputable titles such as Vogue and W Magazine, that bring a sense of heritage and elegance to the whole affair. There is a deeper level of connection that images shot by revered photographers, on real life physical pages, can offer that digital work sometimes lacks. But as Stoppard rightly points out, that is the connection and information landscape we inhabit now, and fashion, which is so often informed by evolving cultural movement, should embrace that reality: "Today's fashion culture is different. We demand a certain speed, a certain kind of immediacy that also comes with things feeling a little more throwaway. If the campaigns of today not only reflect contemporary style but also contemporary communications forms, then they properly reflect the times we live in – and isn't that what fashion is all about anyway?"

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