Back in the 1990s Benetton ran a series of shock adverts, devised by photographer Oliviero Toscani, which helped to define and promote the brand very quickly. They were selling sweaters, but their posters showed a man dying of Aids, a death row prisoner, a nun kissing a priest.
Now F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who was close to Benetton’s Flavio Briatore throughout those years, has revived the practice with an ad for the Hublot F1 King Power watch, the first official F1 watch.
It’s an amazing play; Hublot is a premium brand, with watches retailing for tens of thousands of pounds and this advert is going to stop people in their tracks. It’s risky, but totally inspired.
Ecclestone, 80, and his partner Fabiana Flosi were attacked by muggers outside his Princes Gate building in London last week and it was reported that the thieves stole a watch and jewellery worth over £200,000. Ecclestone dimissed these numbers, but in an inspired turn-around he has had himself photographed post-assault with a badly bruised face, saying “See what people will do for a Hublot.”
The ad sums up so much about Ecclestone; his sense of humour, his commercial eye and above all his toughness – can you imagine what a kicking like that would be like at any age, let alone for an 80 year old?
The advert provides its own complex social commentary; what kind of people would do this to an 80 year old man? What does it say about a person’s right to wealth and to have such expensive items on their wrist making them a target.
And it will cause the general public to see Ecclestone in a different light, although the ads are mainly targetted at media outlets catering to high net worth individuals.