Oxemberg changes lanes: High fashion imagery to human interest stories

By Sunit Roy , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | February 19, 2018
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The apparel brand has recently released a bunch of digital films about social causes. A look at the brand's new advertising tack.

When last we checked, Oxemberg's ads featured white models in international locations, sashaying in vibrant, stylist clothes (this ad is a staple at the movies). Cut to the apparel brand's latest campaign: muted monologues of people talking about the social causes they've decided to support with no mention of the brand until the very end. These ads are online.

What made Oxemberg change lanes? Or is it a matter of building a different identity on each media platform? We explore.

The latest digital campaign is titled 'Make Your Move'. The films have been created and executed by Kashyap Swaroop, CEO, and Harsh Desai, CCO, of Lowfundwala Communications, a production house. The stories narrated in the films are real (non-fiction) as are the narrators (they're not actors).

The first film 'Water Baby' is about Afroz Shah, a lawyer who followed his heart, by 'making his move' (campaign title) towards bettering society by initiating a clean-up drive across Mumbai's shoreline. The effort earned him the title of 'Champion of the Earth' by the United Nations.

The second film, 'The Joy of Giving', is about Manish Vyas, a 25-year-old who left his full-time job to help students at the Sikkim Himalayan Academy realise their true potential.

And the third film 'The Journey Within' is the story of Jubin Mehta, an author who moved from the big city to the mountains to achieve the one thing that mattered to him, peace.

About this new concept-heavy effort, Animesh Singh, marketing manager, Oxemberg, tells afaqs!, "We are majorly focusing on the youth of India - the 'millennials'. The best way to connect with them is through purpose-led marketing. The young generation wants to stand for a cause and have its own opinion."

Animesh Singh Animesh Singh

Harsh Desai Harsh Desai

Kashyap Swaroop Kashyap Swaroop

Therefore, the marketing team of Oxemberg decided to celebrate youngsters who are giving humanity another chance. "These (the protagonists of the films) are the people who have shown the world that a single individual's effort can give rise to a collective revolution," Singh says. He continues, "They have mobilised common folk to support the environment... they have 'Made their Move'. Oxemberg salutes these real-life heroes."

The subject selection was based on days of observation, research and discussions with change-makers, we learn. "When Vinayak Singh Vyas, our chief writer and I came across the previous 'Make Your Move' campaigns, we felt this is a great opportunity to create human stories about path-breaking life choices, whilst keeping the philosophy of the brand intact," says Desai.

The team, led by Swaroop - who is also the director of the films - spent over two months with Afroz, cleaning Versova beach, to get under his skin and learn his journey.

The biggest hurdle the creative team faced was convincing the brand to take this risk and make a series of documentary-like films, a first for Oxemberg.

Swaroop says, "We spent countless hours with the client - we spent a lot of time defining and understanding what Oxemberg stands for, how it needs to be positioned and what the objective of the series is. One thing the client was very particular about was brand-related hygiene, which, I confess, is slightly difficult to focus on during shoots in remote locations. But we made it a point not to compromise on things such as the finishing of the clothing, bringing out the right colours and hues and making the brand shine in whatever limited scope there was."

He adds about the execution challenges, "Shot in Mumbai, Sikkim and Dharamsala, the elements of nature kept us on the edge. Landslides in Sikkim and rains in Dharamsala meant we had fewer hours to shoot outdoors... but the enthusiasm of the brand team helped. Animesh (Singh) even helped us with production occasionally. The project, from concept to delivery, was executed within a month's time."

About the brand's media mix and the role of digital therein, Oxemberg's Singh says, "There are millions of active users in India and our TG is in sync with the platform. Our focus is on Facebook," adding, "We are very active on other platforms as well and are not restricting ourselves to one platform. We spend strategically, keeping in mind our objective and the platform that can best serve our purpose."

A Right Move?

What will this shift do for the brand? Should the branding element have been stronger in this campaign? Over to the experts:-

Suvajyoti Ghosh Suvajyoti Ghosh

Vibha Desai Vibha Desai

Anu Joseph Anu Joseph

Suvajyoti Ghosh, managing director and chief creative officer, Brandmovers India, surmises that these documentary-style stories are an attempt to engage with the digital audience. "I hope they make the 'Make Your Move' proposition sharper so that more people can relate to the brand's messaging and understand their stance. Also, it will be interesting to see the brand involve their audience to take real actions over and above 'liking' and sharing the content. I saw opportunities for that in all three films... the community can be involved. If the brand does not facilitate any action, then these will just remain stories and might not help build Oxemberg's brand proposition."

Independent advertising and marketing consultant Vibha Desai says, "I am glad Oxemberg chose to run these films as compared to the usual 'foreign male-model in a glamorous setting with an attractive model on his arm' ad with no message besides good looking people wearing your brand. It is possible that the brand retains the fashion look for its television commercials. Here, the branding is just a quick tagline in the end; with these commercials, this is the only way it could have been... to have anything greater than this would make it highly inappropriate. I think these stories will add a deeper, more nuanced element to the brand mix. I think it's a great idea."

To Anu Joseph, chief creative officer, Creativeland Asia, "A brand without a purpose is a mere product. The films are nicely done," he says, "But what I would've loved to see is stronger brand integration; in these times of fleeting attention spans and six-second videos, how you integrate your brand into the long-format story is critical. No matter the purpose of your brand, the purpose of putting these content pieces out there is business."

A look at some of the previous campaigns done by Oxemberg.

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