Corporate Comics

NYT: The sportswear company Perry Ellis has long employed the traditional formula for men’s fashion advertising: take one handsome man, photograph him posing in an exquisite setting, and repeat.
The campaign features a male character in a series of settings that emulate real life. But now Perry Ellis has decided to replace its leading man with something less predictable: a comic strip.
Using comics in advertising is an old strategy that may be on the verge of a revival, thanks in part to the rising popularity of graphic novels among young men. Even Hollywood has caught on in recent years, adapting the graphic novels “Sin City” and “A History of Violence” to commercially successful films. And the customer Perry Ellis aims for is typically a 30-something man the company hopes will be drawn to the playfulness of a comic strip with the grown-up content of a graphic novel.
“Our guys are right on the fringe of Gen X, and they’ve grown up with this type of thing right in front of them,” said Neil Powell, the chief creative officer for Margeotes Fertitta Powell in New York, which created the campaign. “And we were also looking to create an ad campaign that was a form of entertainment.”
In today’s advertising climate, most marketers are condensing their messages to match the shortening attention spans of readers. Perry Ellis is asking readers to do the opposite: linger over a comic strip to absorb the message and even follow the continuing series in several monthly installments.
“We’re challenging several conventions about fashion advertising and communications in general,” said Michael Kantrow, the president and chief executive at Margeotes Fertitta Powell. “It’s hard to get people to pay the same attention to advertising that they do to content, but we’re hoping that this will blur the line there.”

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am now head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.