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,’
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.