If you haven't seen, first check out the 90-second spot from Louis Vuitton, "Where are you going?", the brand's first-ever TV ad, teased in the most recent earnings report. Creative per Ogilvy, Paris.
OK, what to make of this? First, our impression:
This feels a lot longer than it is. The existential question—"What is a journey?"—is explored through some pretty engaging imagery, and we have to admit, we watched all the way through to the end, and probably would have done the same had we seen it on TV (we don't have cable folks, we read). It recalls the print campaign, featuring Catherine Deneuve at a train station, lots of fog and smoke, revealing and concealing the lensman's subjects. And the soundtrack gets us in the mood for an Alejandro Iñárritu film. We're pleased to see that we're not bogged down with a bunch of branded product, and indeed feel that the spot makes an emotional connection. It's really a beautiful spot in a world full of uglies, and doesn't come off as pandering or offensive.
But the problem we've got, ultimately, is the branding part. We have to feel that people for whom "The journey is life itself," probably aren't the same ones who want to shell out thousands for a suitcase. In fact, they'd probably spend the money that a Vuitton steamer trunk would cost on a fairly comfortable trip to Africa or Asia. Unless, of course, they're among those who prefer custom Vuitton luggage, and travel to India on a half-spiritual journey to connect a dysfunctional family (er, in case you hadn't already caught on, we're talking about The Darjeeling Limited here). So the message seems to be a disconnect with the product, n'est pas?
And, now, point-counterpoint from two recent critiques:
From BryanBoy.com (AKA the twink blogger who actually got Marc Jacobs to create a handbag named after him): "I *LOVE* the commercial! It's quite moving and touching. In fact, the message is crystal clear to me. IMO, the folks at luxury powerhouse Louis Vuitton went back and paid homage to their roots: the art of travel. Afterall, travel is an integral part of the brand's DNA. Nowhere in this commercial you'll find the usual flash flash "bling" stereotype the average Joe associates with Vuitton. I think it's a nice little flashback to the bygone era where only the traveling set knows about the historical and cherished by millions monogram."
From Pam Danziger (of luxury analysis firm, Unity Marketing, Stevens, Pa.): "It's atmospheric and evocative, yes, but LV has fallen into a trap that can catch many heritage-rich luxury brands, and that is thinking that brand image is the ultimate reason why people buy. In my research into the mindset of the luxury consumers, brand image plays a supporting, not a leading role in why people buy. When affluent consumers buy a luxury brand, first and foremost they want outstanding quality. Image may be a primary motivator for the 'aspirational' consumers who want to put on the trappings of a luxury life they have not yet attained, but not for the affluent shopper who has already made it. It is even questionable that the company's target consumers will get the brand identity message that is this commercial's primary objective. When I viewed this ad, all I had were questions, but no answers. 'What is a journey?' is the question poised in this commercial, but the answer about why I need the Louis Vuitton brand to accompany me on my journey was left unanswered."
Anyhow, at least the ad has people talking, which is always good in this biz. Of course, Vuitton doing its first TV ad would naturally have every one talking. What remains to be seen is, as Danziger notes in her review of the spot, whether or not consumers (and critics) will go from talking to buying.