CLIENT OF THE WEEK: Putting Oxfam on the catwalk - Sarah Shekleton loves Leo Burnett’s stylish ad for her shops, Mairi Clark reports

If you chanced upon a cinema ad last week featuring the supermodel, Karen Elson, clad in exquisitely stylish clothes, you could be forgiven for thinking it was for a swanky designer store. But the commercial is for Oxfam shops, and it has prompted a flurry of media interest.

If you chanced upon a cinema ad last week featuring the supermodel,

Karen Elson, clad in exquisitely stylish clothes, you could be forgiven

for thinking it was for a swanky designer store. But the commercial is

for Oxfam shops, and it has prompted a flurry of media interest.



It is an interest that Sarah Shekleton, the marketing manager of Oxfam

shops, welcomes. ’We could never have afforded to pay someone to make

the ad had Leo Burnett (the agency) and Wowhaus (the production company)

not approached us. And to get Elson as the model was just fantastic,’

she says.



It turns out that Elson’s involvement was something of a fluke. In

age-old fashion tradition, she was a friend of the stylist and waived

her usual fee. At the shoot she revealed that, off the catwalk, she

relished putting together outfits from Oxfam, an admission which had to

be included in the ad.



Shekleton appreciates some agencies have ulterior motives when they

pitch for charity ads (a blank canvas to work on and the prospect of

advertising awards), but Oxfam as a client, she insists, behaved in the

same way as any other client. ’We had a definitive target audience of

16- to 34-year-olds and we wanted to show them that these outfits could

be created with Oxfam clothes but not make any promises. We are as

protective of our brand image as anyone,’ she says.



While it is Oxfam’s first advertising campaign for its charity shops,

it’s not Shekleton’s first experience as a client. Her ambition to be a

nuclear scientist waned after she completed a physics degree at Oxford

and she joined Procter & Gamble in 1986 as a brand manager. After four

years at P&G Shekleton took sabbatical leave and did voluntary work in

Kenya for two years. She returned in 1992 and started working for Oxfam

a year later as donated products manager (’basically in charge of

secondhand clothes,’ she says) and has immersed herself in her job.

’There is a real passion in Oxfam that is blatantly obvious from the

reaction to the ad,’ she says.